How to Save Money on Airfare

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Take charge of your ticketing to find the best airfare bargains.

First,
the bad news. After more than a year of falling ticket prices, the cost of
flying is now rising. According to statistics from the U.S. Department of
Transportation, the average domestic airfare jumped 4.7 percent in the first
quarter of 2010 compared with the same period last year.

Now
the good news. You can do something about it.

First,
understand that the rules around when and where to buy tickets are constantly
in flux—airfare offers change up to three times each day during the
week. Airlines aren’t just changing the fares but also the number of seats that
are available at the lowest fare. There might be one seat today at the lowest
price and a dozen tomorrow morning. Or vice versa. You need to search hard,
find the fare, and lock it down immediately.

In
other words, timing is everything when it comes to saving money on airfare.
That’s true for when you buy, but also for when you decide to travel. To find
the lowest fare, flexibility is key. If you have wiggle room built into your
schedule, you can sometimes save hundreds by adjusting your travel dates, often
by just one or two days. (And those who are very flexible might try an auction
site like Hotwire or Priceline.)

Unfortunately,
this tactic doesn’t work very well during the busy holiday season when seats
are at a premium. In fact, it’s difficult to find any low prices when the
holiday season approaches. Airlines traditionally raise their fares for travel
during peak holiday periods and for last-minute travel, and they start planning
early. Don’t expect to use your miles to save money, either. During the holiday
season, there’s little—if any—chance of getting a seat using a “restricted mile
award.” You’ll have to dig deep into your account for one of those “anytime
mileage awards.”

Our
most important tip? Take charge and shop around. Don’t assume that all online
travel agencies have the same fares, or that the airline’s own website has the
highest fares. And don’t overlook air/hotel packages; the total package price,
including the hotel, can be less than the airfare alone. —Everett Potter

With reporting by Jennifer Coogan, Jennifer Flowers, and Nick Teddy

How to Save Money on Airfare

Take charge of your ticketing to find the best airfare bargains.

First,
the bad news. After more than a year of falling ticket prices, the cost of
flying is now rising. According to statistics from the U.S. Department of
Transportation, the average domestic airfare jumped 4.7 percent in the first
quarter of 2010 compared with the same period last year.

Now
the good news. You can do something about it.

First,
understand that the rules around when and where to buy tickets are constantly
in flux—airfare offers change up to three times each day during the
week. Airlines aren’t just changing the fares but also the number of seats that
are available at the lowest fare. There might be one seat today at the lowest
price and a dozen tomorrow morning. Or vice versa. You need to search hard,
find the fare, and lock it down immediately.

In
other words, timing is everything when it comes to saving money on airfare.
That’s true for when you buy, but also for when you decide to travel. To find
the lowest fare, flexibility is key. If you have wiggle room built into your
schedule, you can sometimes save hundreds by adjusting your travel dates, often
by just one or two days. (And those who are very flexible might try an auction
site like Hotwire or Priceline.)

Unfortunately,
this tactic doesn’t work very well during the busy holiday season when seats
are at a premium. In fact, it’s difficult to find any low prices when the
holiday season approaches. Airlines traditionally raise their fares for travel
during peak holiday periods and for last-minute travel, and they start planning
early. Don’t expect to use your miles to save money, either. During the holiday
season, there’s little—if any—chance of getting a seat using a “restricted mile
award.” You’ll have to dig deep into your account for one of those “anytime
mileage awards.”

Our
most important tip? Take charge and shop around. Don’t assume that all online
travel agencies have the same fares, or that the airline’s own website has the
highest fares. And don’t overlook air/hotel packages; the total package price,
including the hotel, can be less than the airfare alone. —Everett Potter

With reporting by Jennifer Coogan, Jennifer Flowers, and Nick Teddy

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How to Save Money on Airfare

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