The One Thing You Need to Do Now to Save Money on Airfare in 2018

Don't pay more than you have to.

Woman using a cell phone during the holidays
Photo: Getty Images

With 2018 quickly approaching, now is the perfect time to start planning next year's vacations.

To make sure you get the best possible price on airfare — without hinging all of your bets on a flash sale or mistake fare — set airfare alerts for all the trips you want to take next year. It's the single best (and easiest) thing you can to do to save money on your upcoming travels.

A number of flight deal websites and search engines make it easy to set custom notifications for price drops. There are also subscription e-mail services and "farecasting" apps that will guarantee you're the first to know about sales or low prices on your preferred routes.

Follow these three steps, and you won't pay for an overpriced flight on any of your upcoming travelers.

1. Download these apps.

Even if you haven't decided where you're going in 2018, download DealRay and Hopper right now. These apps serve two very different purposes, but are both key to scoring deals on flights.

Hopper uses a mix of historical data and current fares searches to produce a custom calendar highlighting the best (and worst) times to travel to your specific destination. The app will tell you how much the price is likely to fluctuate, and can watch your preferred trip, sending notifications when it thinks you should book for the best price.

Since the app debuted in 2015, it has added suggested deals you may not have known you wanted (like flash sales for similar trips or discounts on flexible dates) and a flexible flight watch feature to help you find savings when you're able to accommodate different destinations and travel dates.

For travelers more interested in spur of the moment bookings, DealRay, a desktop and mobile members-only service, that sends real-time alerts and push notifications when it finds sales or mistake fares (like super-cheap flights to the Maldives for $526 round-trip).

2. Set alerts for specific trips.

Whether you like to hunt for airfare on Google Flights or Momondo, most flight search engines are now capable of evaluating ticket prices and telling you whether to buy or wait for a better deal.

On Google Flights, you can select "track prices" to watch fares on specific routes. With Momondo, that's called "fare alert." Skyscanner users can select "get price alerts."

Travelers who search on KAYAK will always see the website's advice in the top left corner, which will suggest buy now, wait, or watch. KAYAK will even give an estimate as to how much the airfare will rise or fall, helping you gauge whether or not it's worth the risk.

And by simply entering your home airport and dream destination in, you'll see the lowest possible ticket price on sale at the time, the cheapest round-trip fares every month, and have the option to instantly set an e-mail alert for price drops.

3. Sign up for email deals.

In addition to setting alerts for all the trips you know you want to take, travelers should be prepared to book spontaneous flights, too. Like the DealRay app, Thrifty Traveler and Scott's Cheap Flights are subscription services that will notify you when there's a serious deal worth booking — even if the destination hadn't been on your radar at all. Instead of a push notification, however, they send e-mail blasts to subscribers.

Last year, Thrifty Traveler alerted us to $313 round-trip tickets to Singapore, while Scott's Cheap Flights filled us in on $352 round-trip flights to Hawaii.

Both websites offer free and premium services, depending on your level of commitment to scoring a deal.

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