On any given flight, two passengers sitting next to each other probably paid different amounts for their tickets. Don't want to be the one who paid more? Use these strategies to get the best deal on your next flight.
- Book Early - Airfares are unpredictable, but generally the farther in advance you purchase, the less you’ll have to pay. CheapAir’s analysis of over three million trips found that the prime booking window for domestic flights is 21 to 121 days ahead of departure, with tickets cheapest 54 days in advance. Business travelers tend to book later, but they can still save big by not waiting until the last minute. A study of employee expense data from Concur found that tickets booked fewer than seven days before departure cost an average of 44% more than if it they had been booked 15 or more days in advance.
- Book on the Right Day - Airfares don’t just increase as the departure date draws near, they also fluctuate throughout the course of a given week. According to data from FareCompare, the best time to book air travel is Tuesday at 3:00 PM Eastern Time, when airlines tend to release their discounted seat inventory.
- Fly on the Cheapest Days of the Week - By process of elimination, you should be able to determine when demand - and prices - are lowest. Monday and Thursday bookend many business travelers’ schedules, with Friday and Sunday also being popular travel days for both business and leisure travelers. That leaves Tuesday, Wednesday, and to a lesser extent Saturday, as the cheapest days to fly. For this reason, bleisure travel - extending your trip into a vacation - often provides great value.
- Fly During Off-Peak Hours - Flights are cheapest between 5:00 AM and 7:00 AM, or after 8:00 PM. It really is true: the early bird gets the worm (though night owls can too). In 2016, Rocketrip travelers have saved an average of $116 per flight by flying at off-peak times.
- Fly from Less Expensive Airports - Next time you search for flights, check the box for “include nearby airports.” Many cities have alternate airports that can be cheaper than their big siblings. Sometimes you’ll have to travel a little farther for the cheaper fare, but not always. For example, Dallas Love Field and Chicago Midway are actually closer to their respective city centers than are DFW or O’Hare, but since both airports are hubs for Southwest Airlines, they offer an extensive selection of affordable flights.
- Use Connecting Flights - If time is money, then it follows that you should be able to trade a bit of the former for the latter. Direct flights are inarguably convenient, but flights with layovers are often cheaper. Taking connecting flights is one of the strategies that Rocketrip travelers use to save over $100 per trip on airfare.
- Book Multiple One-Way Tickets - It used to be that a one-way ticket would likely be as expensive on its own as a roundtrip ticket. The situation has changed somewhat now that airlines have become more aggressive about liquidating their spare seating inventory online. Try separate flight searches and you might find some savings!
- Consider Hidden City Ticketing - Airfares don’t necessarily correspond to distance flown, and in some cases the price of a long flight with a stopover might be lower than the price of one of its constituent legs. Hidden city ticketing, also called throwaway ticketing, is a travel hack that attempts to take advantage of this discrepancy. For instance, a traveler who wants to go from San Diego to Kansas City might instead book a cheap flight to Chicago that connects through Kansas City, and disembark there. Sites like Skiplagged can help you find hidden city itineraries, but you should use this hack with caution: airlines are cracking down and invalidating return trips for passengers who disembark early.
- Take Advantage of the 24 Hour Refund Rule - U.S. Department of Transportation regulations require that all bookings made at least 7 days in advance of departure can be changed or cancelled within 24 hours. So if you’d like to snatch up a great deal, but your travel plans aren’t quite set, you have something of a grace period.
For more business travel saving tips, check out this post on How to Cut Employee Travel Costs.