1. Book directly with the airline. Book on the airline’s website, not with a third party consolidator like Expedia. Published rates are the same regardless of the booking engine and airlines guarantee the lowest rates if booked on their website. In addition, you have direct communication with the airline in case of any issues and it’s easier decipher what’s included in the fare and more importantly, what’s not included.
The only exception we’ve found is when multiple airlines are involved on one booking. Even then, it’s still worth double checking fares on the airlines’ website before booking.
2. Pack lighter. You’ve seen this tip more than once in our newsletters and it holds true here, too. Checked bag fees add up and you spend extra time waiting for checked bags at baggage claim. Time is money, especially on vacation. If you’re hoping not to lug your bags between flights, pack a bag that can fit in the overhead compartment. With flights being booked to capacity, you’re often able to gate check it for free.
3. Sign up for fare alerts. Almost every major airline booking site, e.g. Kayak and Google Flights offers airfare alerts for free. You can specify routes and travel dates.
I recently signed up for the premium service with Scott’s Flights (international flights only; $39 annual fee). I get several emails a day with fare alerts. Most of the time, the emails don’t do anything other than fan my wanderlust. However, a fare alert saved me $200 last week on my October flight to Quito, Ecuador. That one alert more than paid for the annual fee.
4. Pick the day of the week you fly wisely. Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday are typically the least expensive travel days for domestic flights. For international travel, weekdays in general are less expensive. If you can’t book these days for all flights of your trip, try to do it for one leg and you’ll see savings.
5. Fly out early or late. The cheapest flights are typically the first and last flights of the day.
6. If you plan to fly with one of the low cost airlines like Southwest, check their websites individually. Comparison sites like Kayak don’t always show fares for these airlines even though they may be the most cost effective.
If you fly more than one to two times a year, consider enrolling in an airline’s frequent flier program and getting an airline’s credit card. A credit card tied to an airline offers perks that used to be free like checked bags, priority boarding, and seat selection. You may find the annual fee is less expensive than purchasing these options individually.
8. Ask a travel professional. One of our roles as travel consultants is to know what fares are typical for a destination. If you’re unsure about a good price for airfare, ask.