That is a loaded question! Everyone thinks they have the latest tips and tricks to purchasing airfare and although there may be some trends airfare is a line item on your budget that needs a healthy amount to cover you for your vacation.
As travel planners, we are familiar with the standard air prices from some of the most traveled cities and can give you a good idea of what you should budget for airfare for your next trip. There are a few tips that do help such as purchasing airfare around the 50 days prior to departure time, planning to travel the middle of the week and sometimes purchasing airfare on Tuesdays around 3 or after that may hold true to getting you a great price.
Here are a few guidelines that we have found helpful when looking for airfare for our clients.
- Know your airlines. Which airlines depart for airports that you frequent. By watching these airlines you can follow their trends.
- Don’t use sites that search several airlines at a time. There are airlines that do not post their flights on these sites and therefore you may not find the best price.
- Watch when you compare pricing for the ancillary charges such as seat costs, and bags. You may land on an airline site, such as Spirit whose airline charge usually will produce lower rates, but then after adding ancillary charges, your price may be higher or very similar to other airlines that may be providing more, such as larger seat sizes and refreshments.
- Consider the flight you are taking. If it is a flight longer than a few hours, you should consider the comfort of your seat. It may be worth the extra $50.00 to have a comfortable seat.
- Time of departure, arrival and layovers all need to be taken in consideration. Often the early morning departures are the lower fares. That may look good on paper, but considering that you need to be at the airport 2 hours prior for domestic flights and 3 hours for international flights, these early morning departures saving money may end up exhausting you – and if you travel with children – do I need to say more? Not only are you departing and arriving early, you then face waiting around for your hotel room to open. This can be several hours and you could have slept a little longer in the morning and arrived right when the room is open!
- A basic budget for most domestic departures can be $250.00 – $350.00 per person. Of course, there are some less and some more, but this is a great place to start. Signing up with airline programs also allow you to watch fares. Frontier is a great one. They often send out notices of significantly discounted rates – the key is be ready to buy – they go fast! One additional item — make sure you have a place to go before you purchase air as you won’t want your hotel sold out either!
These are not all tried and true but may answer some of your questions. The bottom line, traveling by air gets you to where you need to go, but needs to be considered in your vacation budget in order to plan the rest of your vacation fun!