Are peak season airfares getting you down? Don’t fret! Here are my five secret steps for finding the best fare home for the holidays… or any time of year for that matter.
One bit of good news right now? Airfares are trending down due to lower fuel prices and overcapacity. These trends will be magnified over the next few weeks as we enter the slower “dead weeks” of early December and early January when airlines roll out deals to help keep all those planes full.
The dead weeks are one of the best times of year for those with schedule flexibility to check around for last minute fare deals– or last minute “deals” on frequent flyer mile redemptions. Also, business travelers can take advantage of last minute deals to get some all-important face time with clients who might have been avoided due to expensive fares.
Keep an eye out for upcoming Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales for dead week deals. For example, Delta has just deeply discounted SkyMiles redemptions for a Black Friday sale.
Here are 5 steps to remember when fare shopping:
1) Determine the “going rate” for the trip on the dates that work best for you– and keep in mind that Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays are generally the cheapest days for flying. Shop for fares on your airline of choice and also on fare comparison or shopping such as Google Flight Search or ITA Matrix– these are considered the best search tools because they are not involved in manipulating results on behalf of advertisers. And don’t forget to check Southwest.com since Southwest fares don’t show up on most comparison sites.
2) Factor in fluctuations in demand for your target price. For example, you won’t find that $250 transcontinental round trip during Thanksgiving or Christmas week, but you might find it during the “dead weeks” of early December or January. (Again, you’ll see plenty of dead week deals included in upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday specials from travel suppliers.)
3) Set up fare alerts for price drops— fare shopping sites such as SkyScanner, AirFareWatchDog, Kayak or major online travel agencies will do this for you. Based on your research of the “going rate” set a fare level that feels comfortable for you (based on demand), and you’ll get an email if the fare drops below that. Don’t forget to include all the airports near your destination– some can be significantly cheaper than others.
4) Once you see a fare that fits into your budget and timeframe, BUY IT. Feel good knowing that you snagged a good seat on a convenient flight at a reasonable price. Don’t sweat it. By waiting, you’d likely not find the most convenient flight for you. Convenience is worth paying for.
5) Monitor for fare drops during the 24-hour grace period you have for canceling reservations without penalty. In the rare case that you find a lower fare within 24 hours, cancel your original reservation without penalty, rebook, and repeat. Consider using a site like Yapta.com that can help you get a refund if you overpaid for a ticket (minus the change fee, of course, so you would really have to overpay to take advantage of it.)
What’s your best tip or experience getting low fares? Leave it in the comments!
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