It might seem to the outsider that the prices on airline tickets are as capricious as teenagers in love. There seems to be little rhyme or reason to how much tickets cost, and you may have read about the enormous difference between the ticket prices paid by passengers seated next to one another on the same flight. It's particularly notable with international airfare, where the disparities in ticket prices can be several hundred dollars.
What appears to be entirely random, however, actually has some method to the madness. You may not be able to pinpoint the exact nanosecond when a given flight will be at its lowest fare, but there are enough patterns to the pricing of airline tickets that you can get much closer to the lowest prices just by knowing a few simple rules about timing.
Keep in mind that time of year has a huge impact on the cost of travel, too—avoiding the high season means lower prices on airfare, as well as more options for budget accommodation. The following tips, however, will help you find better deals on flights no matter what time of year you fly.
Best Days to Buy Airline Tickets
Believe it or not, not all days of the week are created equally when it comes to the prices of airline tickets. By all accounts, the best day to shop for airfare deals is Tuesday. Why is this? Airlines typically announce sales on Monday, usually in the latter part of the day. If other airlines are going to follow suit and match the lower fare, it'll take them a day or so—meaning that by Tuesday afternoon (EST) the airlines that are going to throw their hat in the discounted airfare ring for a given route will have done so.
Best Days to Fly
Weekend days at the airport generally belong to the leisure travelers, while Mondays and Fridays are when airports are flooded with business travelers. It stands to reason, then, that mid-week flights would be cheaper simply because there's less demand. In particular, Wednesday is often the cheapest day to fly, followed closely by Tuesday. Oddly, Saturday also tends to be a cheap day to fly—likely because even leisure travelers try to get a jump on vacations by flying out on Fridays. Remember, this counts for your flight out and your flight in—return on a Wednesday or Tuesday, too, for maximum savings.
Best Times of the Day to Fly
Get ready to set those early alarms, folks, because the cheapest flights on any day are the ones first thing in the morning. Why? Because they're the least desirable—who wants to get up at 3 a.m. to catch a flight? You do, if you want to save money on your ticket! Another good option for finding cheap airfare is to book red eye flights when possible.
Best Way to Get the Best Deals
Even with all these timing rules ingrained in your head, there's still a bit of luck involved in getting the best deals on flights. Take advantage of the tools available so that you don't have to stare at your computer screen, hitting refresh every 90 seconds and chain-drinking Red Bull so you don't miss a price dip. Sign up for airfare alerts (all the airfare search sites have them) for your route so you'll be notified of price drops as they happen, and plan your trip enough in advance that you can do your research and learn what the going rate is for an airline ticket (which means you'll actually know a deal when you see it).
Photo Credit: iStockphoto/Thinkstock
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