Unless you are self-employed or retired, preplanning means talking to your supervisor well ahead of vacation time, and asking if you can give little or no notice when it comes to the traditional two weeks off. You have to work with your employers to sketch out what dates, months or times of year can be immediately available to you. Position yourself so you can go when the going is good.
And here are some examples of why preplanning pays off: In an unusual move this past weekend, Continental Airlines (quickly followed by United Airlines) dropped prices to Hawaii. Continental, for example, had a Pittsburgh to Honolulu flight for an incredible $228 roundtrip (all taxes and surcharges included) and United featured a Newark to Honolulu steal, at just $245 roundtrip. A few days later, these airfares are likely to be gone.
Can't find great deals? Then look for "mega mistakes." United recently blew it big time with a "clerical error" that deducted $130 from the price of many of its tickets. Stuff happens, and you have to be ready to pounce.
So when you're planning a trip, don't let airline ticket prices rule your vacation economics; consider all the costs of the trip and the things you can do to take advantage of everything within your power. Don't give up and stay home — use technology and change your purchasing habits, and you may wonder why you got so worked up over airfare in the first place.
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.