How to get the best airfare deal

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The never ending buyers remorse.  Booking too soon, booking to late, paying way more for your airfare than anticipated.  Here’s a few tips that will help you find when the right time to book is, or to travel when the price is right.

  • Plan ahead-One of the hardest things to do, but the most fruitful out of all.  Airlines employ a multitude of seat occupancy programs to ensure that seats fares are in higher price brackets when the plane is expected to be full.  When are planes empty?  Way before you even think about stepping on it.
    • Passenger 1 books 12 months in advance, it’s an annual trip and they want to make sure that everything is taken care of. Generally, they pay more.
    • Passenger 2 travels for work and books his trip 10 days head of time.  Generally, they pay more.
    • Passenger 3 books between 15 and 13 weeks before their trip.  They pay the most optimal price.  Why?  The passenger who booked a year in advance was likely going to book regardless of fare price.  Same scenario with the passenger that needed a last minute trip.  In general, airfare is at its most competitive at about the 3-4 month booking window.  Airlines will be shopping competition, making sure they can achieve their occupancy targets for that flight.  As soon as that occupancy is achieved, watch out, up go the fares because last minute buyers have less choices in airlines.
  • Sign up for deal alerts-Many airlines and booking agencies like orbitz.com will e-mail alerts when fares reach a certain price or certain destination.  However, depending on your arrival and departure airport the deals can be hard to snag.  In addition, thetravelcenter.us also offers a notification service that will e-mail when fares are running on special or at reduced rates.  Best of all, our alerts are based on your specific departure airport.  You can sign up to receive notifications to the right of your screen.
  • Avoid “Peak” travel periods-Peak travel periods are defined as a time where there will likely be more passengers than seats in an airplane.  Airlines love these scenarios and their airfare shows it in the price.  Avoiding peak travel periods listed below will help you travel during a lower or normal volume period and in return also save you some money.
    • Holidays-Thanksgiving, Christmas, usually the week before, and the week after.
    • “Spring Break”-This is largely focused around destination cities, Florida, California, Las Vegas are all good places to avoid since every college kid is dying to go there for spring break.
    • Early Monday Morning-This is the prime time for your average traveling businessperson to be heading off to their next client.
    • Thursday Evenings-This is prime time for that same businessperson to be heading back home.
    • Major Events-No brainer, but trying to go to the same city that the Superbowl is being hosted in, will dent your pocketbook.

Your airport will depend largely on fare also.  Smaller airport, with less airlines and competition tend to have higher fares and may require multiple connections.  Large airports have the power to drive airfares down because of additional competition among other airlines.

As long as you can remember the 13-15 week booking window, you should hopefully see yourself consistently getting the best fare.

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