-- This is not about avoiding flying on Friday the 13th.
The list below can help you avoid high prices and fly cheap.
Don’t Fly These Days
February 11 – 24: This is a blackout period during the cheap Winter Deal Zone that got underway earlier this month, so watch out for those February dates (and you’ll see very similar blackout periods in recent sales). A lot of folks want to get away for the long Presidents’ Day weekend and Valentine’s Day, so fares go up temporarily.
April 2: This is when a price bump kicks in on many routes for the spring season, which is typically more expensive than winter. If you can jiggle your itinerary a bit to take off by April 1, you’ll likely save some money.
June 3: Another fare hike occurs on this date (per average prices) for the pre-summer season, not as pricy as peak-summer but higher than spring. Again, try to take off by June 2.
June 20: Boom, it’s the popular summer season and fares jump accordingly. If the kids are out of school before this date, travel before the 20th and you’ll have a little something to add to the college fund.
Early August: Though it's too early for specific dates, generally high summer fares continue into August. But if you can wait a bit, fly in late August when prices drop for fall. This is an excellent time to travel; kids are back in school, lines at airports and attractions drop to manageable levels and plane tickets are cheaper, sometimes significantly cheaper.
Other Ways to Cut Costs
Simple ways to lower the cost of travel that I’ve written about before but bears repeating.
Fly a cheaper route: If you’re traveling cross-country (or even half-way), compare the prices of convenient non-stops with longer connecting flights. Sometimes the difference in price can add up to a lot of money (sometimes hundreds of dollars on flights to Europe). Why not use the savings at your destination?
Use a carry-on bag: It’s free on most airlines but the bigger benefit is a bag that travels with you on a plane can’t go astray. Hanging around an airline baggage office to report a lost bag is annoying and takes time, too. As we all know, time is money.
And remember, the smartest thing you can do whenever you shop for plane tickets is to compare prices, since no single airline always has the best deal. Don’t forget to do a separate search on Southwest, the only carrier that does not share fare data.
Note: Because "do not fly" dates are based on average prices for top domestic airline routes, it may not apply to all departure and destination cities but it can act as a guide. The best thing to do no matter where or when you fly is to always seek out a comparison airfare site (like my own but there are many out there). That’s the one way to see which airline has the best deals.
Rick Seaney is the CEO of FareCompare, a website that curates the best deals on flights from around the world. Any opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author.