It may be a little chilly in some part of the country, but not for long-- vacation season is straight ahead. While he summer is one of the busiest times of year to fly, my advice is the same as always when is comes to flying: Don’t pay a penny more than you have to.
Worried about overspending for the summer getaway? Don't stress, here’s how to find cheaper deals.
1. Take the seasonal discount.
Start plotting out your vacation schedule now so you can fly early or fly late. Peak summer prices are expensive – especially around the Fourth of July – but airfares are lower through June 15 and drop again around the third week in August. An easy rule of thumb is, when kids are in school, prices are lower. If yours are grown or not yet in school, take advantage of this seasonal discount.
Use a ‘best fares by season’ tool when shopping for flights (like the one here); it can help you find the cheapest deals in whatever month you’d like to travel.
2. Plot out cheaper travel days.
Don’t fall into the trap of always flying the most popular days - usually Friday and Sunday – as that almost guarantees you’ll spend too much. The cheapest days to fly are generally Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, so instead of departing Friday, take off Saturday. Instead of returning Sunday, make it Saturday (or Tuesday or Wednesday). Even if you can only incorporate one ‘cheap day’ into an itinerary, you’ll still save something.
3. Forget the convenient airport
If you’re a Southern Californian who live nears near Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport, you know flying in and out of that small facility is a heck of a lot more convenient than navigating mammoth Los Angeles International. The problem is, you pay for this convenience, as shown in these weekend fares to Vegas in April (prices found March 27):
--Burbank to Las Vegas: $400
--Los Angeles to Las Vegas: $105
Note: While larger airports are usually cheaper than smaller ones, that’s not always the case; you must compare fares any time you shop.
4. Add up the fees.
You may find a great deal on Allegiant, Frontier or Spirit, or maybe on one of the big airline’s new Basic Economy fares-- but these can mean more baggage fees, which in turn could move your total airfare cost out of bargain range. Remember to include fees for every extra which could include checked luggage, snacks, soft drinks, even seat assignments. If you see a flight deal you like, check the airline’s website for fees first to determine the true cost of a ticket.
5. Don’t waste time at security.
Because time is money, join the TSA PreCheck program ($85 for five years) and bypass the sometimes horrendously long regular security lines. PreCheck provides dedicated fast-lanes and you get to keep your shoes on. International travelers can join Global Entry to zip through customs on your return and this membership ($100 for five years) includes PreCheck.
A little planning now could mean big savings. And don’t you have more exciting things to spend vacation money on than baggage fees?
Rick Seaney is an airline travel expert and the co-founder of FareCompare.com, an airfare comparison shopping site