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When it comes to booking cheap airfare, timing is everything.  Flight prices are constantly changing so it’s really a game of hit or miss.  Get it wrong and there’s a good chance you’ll be staying home.  More than 2.6 million people fly in and out of U.S. airports every day and we want you to be one of them.  Here are some strategies you can use to save money on your next flight.

Find the cheapest destination

Normally when people plan a vacation, they already have a destination in mind and just need to find the cheapest way to get there.  However, you can save a lot of money by finding an airfare deal and building your trip around it instead.  You’ll have to be open-minded about the destination but if the goal is just to get away, then this is the way to do it.  Go to Kayak Explore and tell them which airport you’d like to leave from along with the time frame and they’ll show you flight prices for destinations all around the world.  To make life easier, you can also narrow down your selection based on your budget, flight time and number of stops.  Based on your specifications, they’ll tell you when you’ll find the cheapest deal and show you available flights.

Identify which days are the cheapest to fly

Typically, Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s tend to be the cheapest days to fly but that isn’t always the case.  Instead of playing the guessing game, try using a site like SkyScanner to determine the best time to fly.  Simply enter your departing and arriving city and select “one way”.  Rather than pick a specific date, choose “whole month” then select the one that works best for you.  This will show you the average flight price every single day of the month so you can choose the cheapest one.  Do the same thing for the return flight and you’re guaranteed to lock in a good rate.

Be flexible with your travel dates

To score the best flight deals, you’re going to need to travel during less popular times.  Since flights are in higher demand during the summer and other times when kids are out of school, flights tend to be more expensive.  You can save hundreds of dollars by booking your trip during the off-season instead.  Just do some research beforehand to ensure that the attractions you’re interested in will be open.

Fly with a budget airline

If you just want to get from point A to B and don’t care about the luxuries major airlines offer, flying with a budget airline can save you a lot of money.  The key is to watch out for the extra fees which can eat away at your savings.  We can’t emphasize enough the importance of reading the fine print.  Many budget airlines will offer cheap flights then charge additional fees for everything else.  For instance, you’ll need to pay extra if you want to select your seat in advance or if you forget to print your boarding pass yourself at home.  In some cases, your fare many only allow you to carry one personal item on board.  The biggest budget airlines in the U.S. are:

  • Southwest
  • Allegiant Air
  • Frontier
  • Spirit Airlines
  • Sun Country Airlines

Other countries have their own budget airlines so do your research if you plan to fly internationally. 

Mix and match airlines

Although you may have a preferred airline, sticking to it won’t always get you the best price. Sometimes you can score a better deal by mixing and matching airlines.

See if you qualify for student discounts

Take advantage of student discounts while you’re still young.  Sites like STA Travel and StudentUniverse specialize in student travel and can help you score discounts on airfare, hotels and tours.  Most of their deals are geared towards students and travelers under the age of 26.

Sign up for airfare alerts

You have better things to do than monitor flight prices all day. Save yourself time and money by setting up airfare alerts with Hopper. Just tell them where you want to go and when. Based on this information, they’ll tell you whether now is the right time to book. If it’s not, they’ll watch the price for you and alert you when it’s time to make your move. Many booking sites also offer a similar service.

Join an airline rewards program and start earning free flights

Most airlines have a loyalty rewards program which you can join for free. Sign up with all the airlines you frequently use. Any time you catch a flight with them, you’ll earn points or miles. Once you’ve accumulated a certain amount, you can redeem them for a free flight or upgrade. The only thing you’ll have to pay out of pocket is the fees and taxes.