Flying is a pain. We all know that. The insane security demands, those preposterous bag fees. It's gotten out of control. So the least the airlines can do is let us fly for cheap, right? And many times they do.
The trick is learning how to find those cheap airfares.
Not so easy. The airlines don't always announce their specials and sales. Indeed, airline discounting on a specific flight may only last a couple of hours, and chances are you'll never hear about it.
But someone will save, and it might as well be you. So here are the 10 things you should know so you can nab those savings.
No. 1: Know What Cheap Airfare Looks Like
That 2007 Honda Civic you've been salivating over, the one with the moon roof? You wouldn't buy it without consulting the Blue Book, would you? Do the same with airfare. Learn what a cheap fare to your destination of choice looks like. Get a baseline from airfare maps with prices including deals to your destination and surrounding areas. Keep up with airfare sales and pay attention to tip No. 8. If you're new at this, do not buy the first fare you see no matter what it costs. You wouldn't do that with a Honda, would you?
If you're really into research, check out historical data so you can see what prices were two and three years ago.
And don't buy too far ahead of time: It's rare that sale prices show up outside a four-month departure window. If you buy earlier, you will pay more than you should.
No. 2: Know the Days the Sales Begin
Airfare sales usually begin with a single airline announcing new deals Monday evening. By Tuesday at lunchtime, the other airlines have matched those prices, meaning Tuesday afternoons are often the best days to buy.
This is how it usually works, although sales have been announced on other weekdays.
No. 3: Know the Cheapest Days to Fly
The cheapest tickets are reserved for the least popular days to fly, meaning Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. In fact, most airline sales force you to fly on those days, if you want maximum savings. The average person likes to stretch out vacation by flying Fridays and Sundays but the airlines know this and that's why they charge more for those days. Flights on Thursdays generally go for mid-range prices.
When looking at potential flights online, use a site that shows your preferred dates on a full-month calendar page so you can clearly see how the prices differ day to day.
No. 4: Know the Cheapest Times to Fly
No one wants to get up at 4 a.m. to head to the airport, but that's when you save. The cheapest times to fly coincide with mealtimes, because nobody wants to fly then either. Bargain shoppers should book travel at dawn or first flight of the day, lunch time the dinner hour or overnight/red-eye flights.
If weather could be a problem (think snowstorms) be sure to get that first flight out to avoid getting stranded.
No. 5: Know Where to Fly From
Compare prices at all the airports near you. Generally, the big hub airports will have the cheapest prices. The savings could be $50 to $150 per flight compared with smaller airports nearby. But check out your neighboring airports. Once in awhile, airlines will discount routes to smaller cities.
If you're lucky enough to be near two big airports, like Miami and Fort Lauderdale, check prices on flights to both.