A recently released Federal Aviation Administration report, reiterates this perfect storm, sighting that the combination of crowded planes and shrinking capacity will continue to lift fares this year and maybe into 2013. The experts also state that higher fuel prices are further increasing prices. Airfares in 2011 increased 17%, according to Farecompare.com, and so far in 2012 they are already up 4%.
Not only will we need to adjust our expectations when it comes to the airfare sale, but we will need to decide when a deal is good enough to purchase. A good starting place is always the web on sites like Airfarewatchdog.com. In years past you could find airfare to Europe for $400 Round-trip, you will now be lucky to find them in the $800 range. For those who are frequent followers of Have Kids – Will Travel and who have read our book, we avoid these fares altogether, opting for $45 round trip airfare to Europe which are still available with the right information.
Keep in mind that not all is lost for those who still need to pay for their airfare. There are still great deals available you just have to be more diligent in how you find them. Even with this new dichotomy, we as travelers can use several strategies to insure we are getting the best bottom line price:
Buy package deals
Just like our trip to China, often when you combine your different elements of travel you can save hundreds. Even combining part of your needs like hotel and airfare, you can often pay less than buying each component separately. Even simply combining a rental car with your airfare can often lower the cost more than the airfare alone, even if you don’t need the car rental. I have seen a combo air-car rental for Hawaii priced over $100 less than the airfare alone. Use the car or not use the car, either way you still save money.
Set price alerts
With the number of travel sites and search engines, there really aren’t any “Secret” deals. However the best deals are what as known as the quick-ending opportunities, which at best only last a few hours. In order to catch these deals, and they are incredible at times, you need to sign up for bulletins or alerts from specific sites like, Airfarewatchdog, Bing Travel, and other sites that we talk about in our book. Often however, the alerts come a day late and a dollar short. Don’t stop looking even when you've purchased your ticket. Many sites and airlines now provide you with the “best-price” guarantee so knowing these prices can save you even after the sale is made.
Time you book
As we’ve stated in our book, there are times when it is cheaper to book airfare and that is usually on Tuesday afternoon. This is when there are the maximum number of seats on sale and available. Also check on the airlines own websites after midnight in the time zone of the airlines headquarters. Keep in mind, prices also seem to rise 7 and 14 days before departure, so book your flight at a minimum of three weeks out and with the limited inventory, you may want to consider three months out.
Check other airports
An airline sale will often create a fare at one airport considerably cheaper than another. It might be worth the extra drive or even flight to another airport. A flight we checked on from Salt Lake City to Dallas was $150 cheaper out of Boise, Idaho. A cheap $39 Southwest flight or a 4 hour drive saved over $100 per ticket. This even works for overseas flights. Finding a airfare on sale to Paris for $700 and connecting with a local discount airline line like Ryan Air for $45 will save you hundreds on a $1200 flight to Venice or Rome, and who wouldn’t like to a few days in Paris as an added bonus.
Be even more flexible
This is the most important tip these days. It is shown that when you travel on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday you will usually get cheaper airfare. Also, use flexible date options when using search engines like Kayak, Google Flights or FareCompare as well as the airline sites themselves. This will aid you in finding the best combination of flights at the lowest cost. Remember to check several sites and remember many search engines sites don’t include low-cost carriers such as Southwest and JetBlue