Anyone who wants to find the cheapest fare needs to have a grasp of these fundamentals.
This may sound cliché, but it is indeed the cold hard truth. Unless you are somewhat flexible when booking your flight, you will not find the cheapest airfare. Simple as that. There’s almost always going to be another, cheaper option if you look at an alternative time of day, another day entirely, or even an alternative airport.
Avoid flying on certain days
The topic of best day to fly is hotly debated. Some say the best flight deals are found on a Sunday, while others state you will find them on a Wednesday. While I cannot necessarily commit to saying one over the other – as I’ve found great flight deals on both – it is definitely best to avoid booking flights on Fridays and Mondays. I’ve never found a cheap deal on those days because it is when the masses are flying, at the end or beginning of a standard working week. Basically, prices are higher when the airlines know more people need to fly. Most airfare search websites actually allow you to click “flexible dates.” Clicking that will yield you the best possible results for your flight window. Similarly, if you look carefully at some fare search sites, you will discover that you can click on a “fare calendar” to show an entire month of fares for your destination.
Book at least one month in advance
Searching for a last minute fare deal is a bit like searching for a unicorn. As a general rule, never leave flight booking to the last minute. If possible, start looking for a flight around 3 months in advance of your travels. There seems to be a booking sweet spot — of between 6-10 weeks in advance of your travels – when you can most easily find the best deals. Unless you are booking a seat sale, booking too far in advance rarely leads to the best deal. I start researching fares around 10 weeks before I need to travel. As soon as the fare drops to the point that I think it won’t go much lower, I grab it. Just don’t leave it too close to the date. Seats in the lowest fare classes usually disappear 30 days before as airlines often require them to be booked a minimum 30 days in advance. So, when you pass one month before the flight, your odds of snagging a great deal drastically decline.
Clear your computer’s history, cookies, and cache
This tip is really important, especially if you are regularly researching your fares online. Airline websites and travel search sites often keep track of your previous searches, and this is not always in your favour. Your best chance at finding the best deal is when the site doesn’t have record of your most recent visits. On more than a few occasions, after deleting my cookies and search history, I’ve found a cheap fare that didn’t appear to be available previously. I don’t have an official explanation for this phenomenon, but I think when sites detect you as a “first time” visitor, they offer up their best deals to grab you as a customer.
Book connecting flights
Airlines know that your time is valuable. Therefore, getting to a destination the fastest way possible, via direct long-haul flights, is often much more expensive. Thus, if you are not in a rush and have time on your side, you can really save by choosing an indirect option. Airlines need to fill as many seats on the plane as possible. So, a classic way for airlines to keep their seats filled is to discount seats for flights when these flights are part of a multiple connection itinerary. For instance, you may find a much cheaper flight if you connect in a major American flight hub such as New York, Chicago or Houston. If you use an airline search website, just be sure to click “see all results” or “show all” as sometimes searches display the direct flight options first because they are generally more expensive and earn the booking site a greater overall commission.