How to Score Cheap Plane Tickets During Travel 'Dead Zones'

Give these extra-special travel periods your full attention.

— -- Everyone who's ever gone to Vegas seems to come back with a great story about winning big, which is kind of amazing considering all those big, expensive casino resorts they keep building. But that's what gamblers say.

Reminds me of the folks who are forever grumbling about airline tickets, the ones who say, "You can never find deals anymore." That's not true either.

If you are on the fence about taking a trip in the next five months, you don't have to gamble. Cheap airfare season is now underway and there are some extra-special travel periods that should get your full attention.

Three dead zones are just ahead. Though the original term is probably ecological in origin, referring to low-oxygen areas in oceans and lakes, airlines also experience periods when they're gasping for passengers. When no one wants to fly, ticket prices nosedive.

It's logical: Airlines hate partially filled planes because every empty seat costs them money due to fuel and other costs. Deep discounting is the best way to put behinds in seats during dead zones and that is precisely what they do.

November Dead Zone

  • When it occurs: The first two weeks in November.
  • Why it's dead: It abuts the most expensive and most popular few days to fly in the U.S., that being the Thanksgiving holiday period. With so many spending so much for a late-November flight home, there is very little demand for travel in the weeks before Turkey Day. This is one of the best times of year to fly because it's cheap and winter hasn't yet to unleash its worst.
  • December Dead Zone

  • When it occurs: The two weeks following the end of the Thanksgiving return flights, generally through Dec. 17 (but dates can vary by airline).
  • Why it's dead: A lot of us are tired of flying after Thanksgiving; others know they will fly at Christmas time or are saving money for holiday gifts. Again, this is a very good time to save on airfare.
  • January Dead Zone

  • When it occurs: This is the granddaddy of all dead zones. It starts in early January after New Year's flights have been completed -- about Jan. 7 -- and extends through February. Once Valentine's Day rolls around, quickly followed by the start of spring break festivities, this dead zone fades away.
  • Why it's dead: It's the dead of winter, of course. And people are back at their jobs after the December holidays. For many, a getaway is the furthest thing from their minds, which is precisely why it's the perfect time to score a deal.
  • Where Dead Zones Are Not Always Dead

    Watch out for higher prices to Caribbean destinations and other sunny spots in late fall and winter, along with some of the smaller close-to-ski-resort airports such as Aspen. Tickets to these destinations generally rise due to greater wintertime demand.

    But those are the exceptions. Now is the time to start thinking about dead zone deals. Trust me, it's no gamble.