After studying the nuts and bolts of airfare pricing for years, I have come up with several rules of thumb that should help most travelers get a better deal. Here are a few:
Don't Procrastinate -- Start shopping for airline tickets about four months before departure. This is when airlines begin actively managing and releasing cheaper seats and you'll also be more likely to catch a system-wide airfare sale.
Travel the Cheapest Days -- Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.
Travel the Cheapest Times of Day -- First flights out, after lunch and dinner and last flights out.
Shop Online Monday Afternoon Through Thursday -- Sales are typically launched and matched by other airlines early in the week and expire on Friday.
Consider Connecting Flights -- Airlines charge a premium for coveted non-stops.
Turn Business Trips into Weekend Getaways -- Stay a Saturday night and typically you can get two tickets for the weekend for less than one last-minute business ticket.
Be Flexible -- This is especially true for international travel with its defined pricing seasons. Time it right, and you can save $400 by leaving 24 hours before or after the day you'd planned to take off.
If you've been elected the travel agent of the family -- you know it's a thankless job -- but you do have the chance to become the family hero by finding the best airfare possible. No, it's not going to be easy these days but it can be done with a little elbow grease, and a dollop of patience.
This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.
Rick Seaney is one of the country's leading experts on airfare, giving interviews and analysis to news organizations, including ABC News, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, The Associated Press and Bloomberg. His Web site FareCompare.com offers consumers free, new-generation software, combined with expert insider tips to find the best airline ticket deal.