Looking for a cheap flight? The last 'deal zone' of the year is rapidly approaching

There are two distinct airfare periods for December fliers, and they can be summed up thusly: very expensive, and extremely cheap.

Let’s focus on the latter, better known as the last "deal zone" of the year.

When is this year's final deal zone?

The last deal zone of the year is always centered around the first two weeks of December, starting just after Thanksgiving travelers return home and continuing up until about Dec. 15. It’s a slow period, so airlines are forced to discount fares to fill their planes.

In other words, buy tickets now for a cheap flight shortly after now and start flying shortly after Turkey Day.

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How cheap is this deal zone?

See for yourself in the examples below; all are round-trip fares for travel in early to mid-December, and all were found on FareCompare earlier this week. (But remember, fares can and do change without notice).

  • Boston to Tampa $86; to Paris $336
  • Chicago to London, $353
  • Dallas to Los Angeles $83
  • Los Angeles to Denver $79; to Rome $442
  • New York to Ft. Lauderdale $89; to Amsterdam $360

Why is travel slow during this deal zone?

Logistics, for one thing. The deal zone is sandwiched between two very popular times to fly (Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s), and most people are saving their precious vacation time for the holidays. If you can spare the time, you can celebrate with a fantastic trip for very little money.

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And I can find these deals easily?

Look for a deal-finding tool that locates the best fares from your hometown in a specific month or season; FareCompare is one, but there are others. A word of warning, though: You will have to be flexible on travel dates, because many of the very cheapest deals are for flights on weekdays.

What if you’re not a flexible flyer?

Try flying one weekday and one weekend day (for U.S. flights, Saturdays are generally the cheaper of the two). Even if you don’t get the very cheapest prices, you’ll still save over most of the fares taking effect just a couple of weeks later.

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By the way, if you were hoping to plan a holiday getaway, just consider this "deal zone" for a pre-holiday getaway. You’ll have just as much fun!

Rick Seaney is an airline travel expert and the co-founder of FareCompare.com, an airfare comparison shopping site