When is the first day of spring? This year, it falls on March 19, but you don’t have to wait until then to take a spring break trip. All you need is the urge to travel with family, friends, or on your own.
Spring flights can be oh-so-cheap, too. Just follow these five simple rules.
1. Book as soon as possible
The closer you get to departure, the higher the cost of your plane ticket. It’s not unlike paying last-minute business travel prices, but at least for those folks, the boss picks up the tab. Give yourself at least 10 days to three weeks before departure to get your tickets; any delays are only going to cost you because prices are on the rise.
2. Compare ticket prices
Do this for spring break airfare, and do this for all airfare: Shop using a fare comparison site so you can see all the lowest fares.* Sure, we all have a favorite airline that we “know” is the cheapest, but the truth is no airline always has the best deal, and if you only go to that carrier’s site, you may not get the cheapest price.
*You will have to visit Southwest separately; it’s the only airline that does not share its prices.
3. Know which destinations are cheapest
If you have your heart set on flying to, let’s say, Tahiti, it won’t be particularly cheap ($1,450 from Chicago in early March), but don’t let me stop you. If you’re just looking for a cheap destination, and a nice vacation spot, here are some places with good flight deals (prices will vary depending on your departure city).
- Sunshine: Los Angeles, San Diego; Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando, Tampa.
- Snow: Boston; Denver.
- City fun: Chicago; New Orleans; New York.
- International: London; Paris; Madrid and Barcelona.
4. Fly the cheapest itinerary
Many of us are inclined to make the most of a week off, which means taking off on the Friday of the first weekend and returning on Sunday of the second. The problem is, Fridays and Sundays are usually the most expensive days of the week to fly. Instead, fly cheaper days: Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. Here’s an example I found earlier this week for roundtrip flights from Denver to Miami at the end of February:
- Depart Friday, return Sunday (10 days): $316
- Depart Tuesday, return Saturday (5 days): $176
- Tuesday-Saturday savings: $140
These itineraries won’t always save money, but price out different dates so you know for sure. I’ll bet most spring-breakers could find a use for that extra $140.
5. Fly the cheapest route
Sometimes – not always, but sometimes – a connecting flight is cheaper than a nonstop. Compare to see the difference, because sometimes adding a stop to a long flight can save you a bundle.
One more thing
Use a carry-on bag whenever possible, for three reasons: 1.) Some airlines don’t charge a baggage fee for carry-ons; 2.) A carry-on travels by your side, so the airline can’t lose it; and 3.) With a carry-on, you don’t have to suffer through a long wait at the baggage carousel — you just grab your bag, walk off the plane and out of the airport. While others are still waiting for their clunky suitcases, your vacation has begun.