The Cheapest Time of Year to Fly

VIDEO: Savings gurus offer some tips for cheap travel options.
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Do you dare to fly … in the dead zone? You should. You'll save a buck or two.

You might even save hundreds.

Stephen King's readers will recognize the term "dead zone" from the frightening suspense novel he published in 1979; as the blurb for the Signet edition notes, the book is about a schoolteacher "who spun the wheel of fortune and won a trip into … the dead zone."

Presumably, your trip into the dead zone will be much more pleasant, because in airfare terms, dead zone equals cheap flights.

For more travel news and insights view Rick's blog at farecompare.com

So when is this dead zone of which I speak? Right now. And there are other dead zone periods, too. But the first couple of weeks of December are particularly "dead," meaning no one flies then.

It's all quite logical. Everyone's done with flying for a while after that trip home for Thanksgiving, and many of us will not return to the skies until Christmas or New Year's. This is followed by yet another dead zone, which we'll call the January doldrums, as much of this month is one big yawn for the airlines.

Things will perk up again when spring break approaches, and as folks begin making plans for summer vacation, but the good news is, there are even dead zones in the summer.

But back to the winter window of opportunity; let me show you some examples of bargains during these blah periods.

I just went on my airfare site and looked at prices from Los Angeles to New York during the second week of December and found flights for $249 roundtrip (and that figure includes the obligatory taxes and fees). Jump ahead a couple of weeks and you're in the midst of the Christmas rush with plane tickets soaring to $440 and beyond.

Now fast-forward to the second week in January and airfares are back down below $250 roundtrip again. See what I mean? And yet so many airfare travelers let these dead zones go to waste. Not Jeanine Barone though. "I like a great deal," says the food and travel blogger, "and I don't like crowds."

What Are the Cheapest Times to Fly?

Yes, that's another benefit to traveling in the dead zone. Empty airports. Well, maybe I'm exaggerating, but there will be fewer passengers, and navigating your way from the Cinnabon kiosk to gate 47 won't take nearly as much time as it usually does.

And if the airports are that calm, imagine what's in store for you once you reach your destination. As Barone told me, "When I visit Spain in September and October, I don't have to deal with crazy lines to get into the Prado Museum."

Wait, what's this about September and October? Yep, more dead zones.

That's the great thing about dead zones; they vary from place to place and from month to month. You've probably heard of this phenomenon: it's called, traveling off-season. Now don't turn up your nose at this until you consider some of the possibilities.

I just checked out the Kimpton chain's luxurious Sky Hotel in Aspen during the height of ski season, and the cheapest room for two adults for five nights in mid-February will cost you just a hair over $2,235. Stay there off season -- say in July -- and you'll save $435. Nope, you won't be able to ski, but you can hike in those glorious mountains and see some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. There's plenty who'd say that's preferable to freezing your hindquarters off.

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