Tips for Finding the Best Airfare Deals

As rising fuel costs continue to push ticket prices higher, travelers remain on the lookout for the best airfare deals. After all, an airline ticket is a substantial part of any trip, so saving a hundred or so dollars is a big help. There are no real secrets to cheap fares, and the best deals sometimes come from using a combination of techniques. So what are the most reliable tips for finding the best airfare deals?

Aggregators

From old standbys such as Expedia and Travelocity to relatively new sites such as Kayak and AirFareWatchdog, aggregators are a convenient way to find the lowest fares. If you fly a frequent route -- say to your best friend's house or your hometown -- sign up for email alerts when low fares to these destinations become available. When fares are reduced, you will receive instant notification.

Individual airline Web sites

Some independent and discount airlines do not use aggregators. However, you can sign up with them directly to be notified of sales. In one instance, Southwest Airlines notified its subscribers of a 24-hour sale that featured half-price fares. Although some restrictions applied, for those with a flexible schedule, this was an opportunity to save real money. True to the airline's word, the sale ended exactly 24 hours later, so frugal travelers must act fast when exciting offers come along.

Other ways to find low fares

IndependentTraveler reminds its readers that choosing to travel to an alternate airport can save a substantial amount. And don't forget to sign up for frequent flyer programs. Affiliated credit cards can help add miles. While you would never run up a credit card balance just to get the miles, wisely using an airline credit card can certainly add miles and get you closer to a free flight. Otherwise:

  • Fly on certain days or at certain times. This alone can have a huge impact on ticket prices. Typically, mid-week and Saturdays are the cheapest times to fly, as are early morning and late evening.
  • Book early. Generally you will save money, though there is always the chance that lower rates might come along after you make your purchase.
  • Fly during certain months, usually during the winter. When demand is low, so are prices.
  • If possible, avoid holidays and other busy times, such as graduation and spring break. Traveling a few days before or after these heavy travel days can save hundreds of dollars.

Pack light

Sometimes the best way to get a low ticket price comes from following one simple tip: Pack lightly. Luggage charges now add a substantial amount to a ticket, so the less you pack, the more you save. You can almost afford to keep a spare wardrobe and toiletries at Mom's house for the cost of checking baggage. Being able to get by on a small carry-on could save $50 on each round trip.

Watch the add-ons

Airlines are constantly working to make the flying experience more enjoyable for passengers -- and more lucrative for the airline. What might look like incidental fees can quickly add up to a lot of money. For short flights, it could be worth the discomfort of the middle seat in the last row to save at least $100.

Fuel costs, and therefore airfare, are likely to remain high. Travelers who want to find the best airfare deals need to be creative and flexible in their plans.

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