Friday, September 2, 2011

Airline Tickets: When Should I Buy?

This is a very common and frequently asked question and one with a variety of answers.  As airline costs have risen, more and more travelers are trying to find ways of lessening their impact on their travel budget.

There used to be a general rule that certain days of the week may offer cheaper fares, but that is not really the case at the present time.  A quick glance at some different airlines and travel scenarios will show you that the cost to fly out on a Saturday and return on a Sunday with a 5-6 month advance purchase will most likely cost you the same as if you were to fly out on a Tuesday and return on a Monday.

So how does someone find the cheapest airfare possible if the days of travel don’t really make a difference?  Well, how flexible are you with your travel plans?  Is it possible for you to leave very early in the morning or fly on what they used to call a “red-eye flight?”  Are you willing to make multiple connections between your home airport and your final destination?  Both the time and number of connections effect the price a traveler will pay. For example...a flight with Delta airlines that departs at 6:00am may cost you over $100 less than a flight that leaves at 9:30am. 

Are your plans solid?  Are you comfortable with buying your airline tickets 6 months or more in advance? I have purchased airfare at the 6 month mark of my trips and have saved as much as $50 per person for the same flights that I have gone back and looked at 3 months later. 

So you see that your answer to those questions will determine the price you pay and the possible amount that you may save.  There is no hard and fast rule.  Some think discount airline sites are the way to go, but again you will find that most airlines guarantee the lowest price if you go direct through them to buy your airfare.  And please know that waiting until the last minute will most likely not save you any money and you run the risk of losing out on the best flight schedules.

And as I just mentioned, here is something to consider that might get you some sense of comfort after you hit the purchase button with any of the major airlines; most of our major domestic airlines offer some form of “price guarantee” (see each airline’s policy for exact details).  The guarantee, in essence, is designed to make travelers feel better about going ahead with their airline purchase at any given time.