When is the best time to shop for fares on summer airline tickets?
My husband is a foreigner and we have gone home to see family several times in the last few years. You should know that there are three separate airfare hikes during the summer. There is a fare hike around April 15th, another fare hike around May 30th and a final hike around June 30th. You may want to change your travel plans to get cheaper rates.
The best thing to do is buy your tickets early. When researching a price, you should contact the hub carrier in you nearest city. For example, Northwest is the hub in Detroit. See what their prices are and use that as your comparison mark. Then go out and call around to see if anyone can beat it. Usually consolidators can beat the price anywhere from 25-50%. If you are travelling to another country, call travel agents that specialize in that country. For example, if I were to go to Greece, I would call a Greek travel agency. I have found these travel agencies to be 30-50% below cost.
I work for a wholesale tour company. If you are planning to go to any popular destination (Hawaii, Disneyland, Mexico, etc.), plan now. The airfare will not go "on sale" between now and summer for those destinations. Also, if possible, try to stay away from travelling mid-June to mid-July. School gets out the second week in June and families tend to travel mid-June through the 4th of July weekend. Labor Day is also popular. Generally, the best airfare is mid-week travel both directions (Monday-Thursday) that includes a Saturday stay.
Stephanie in Portland, Oregon
The best time to shop for summer airfares? Start as soon as possible. The sooner you know your dates of travel, the better. But great fares are always available, contrary to popular belief. You just have to know where to look. My best deals have always come from http://www.bestfares.com. You must be a member to receive many of the deals, but they also list several that are available by simply calling the airline. Membership is $59.90 per year, and it is basically a subscription to their regular magazine. The magazine contains exceptional travel deals and is worth the money if you travel (fly, cruise, or drive) even twice a year.
Then I would advise checking the individual airline websites for specifics. The important thing here to remember is that there are more airlines out there than just the well-known larger ones, like Delta, United, and American. Many of the cheaper fares can be found on Southwest, JetBlue and Air Tran. Many people are unaware of their routes, but a visit to the website will often surprise you as to the variety and number of cities to which they fly. I use sites like Expedia, so that I can see who's flying and what time and to get a general idea of fares. Then I go to the individual airline websites, or call, to see if I can do better.
It helps if you can be somewhat flexible on your travel dates. For example, generally the cheapest days to fly are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday. Most airlines no longer require a Saturday night stay for the cheaper fares, but read the rules and fine print. Some still do! Most of the cheaper fares are also non-refundable. This means that if your plans change, you will not receive a refund for the amount paid unless there is a seriously extenuating circumstance (medical condition, death, etc.). You will, however, receive credit for the amount you paid for the ticket, and this amount is generally good for a year and applicable toward any other fare you might purchase.
Online fares are always cheaper because the airline is not paying a customer service or reservations agent to speak with you personally. But again, be sure you read all the information given to you before you purchase. Know what you're getting, and what the rules are. If you choose to call and make your reservation, listen carefully and clarify verbally anything you don't understand with the agent.
Also be aware that advertised fares generally do not include taxes and airport fees. Every person who flies pays $2.50 per leg up to $10 total to the federal government to pay for the security checkpoints that are in every US airport. Individual airports charge landing and takeoff fees of $2 to $5, depending on the airport. These are the additional "airport fees" that you hear about. So while you hear of a $29 fare one way, be aware that the fine print will likely read that this will require a roundtrip purchase ($29 x 2), plus taxes and airport fees.
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