How To Save Money On Holiday Airfares

Tips for finding the best airfare deals and flying on the cheap.
Rising jet fuel prices may mean that airfares are getting more expensive, but fortunately with some savvy planning and shopping around, you can still snag a good deal. It's really a matter of economics: Airline pricing basically comes down to the fundamentals of supply and demand. And the trick to taking advantage of that is to get your timing right -- that is, knowing when to travel as well as when to book your flight.

Of course, this tactic may not work well at certain times, such as during the peak holiday season when seats are at a premium. But generally speaking, if you're flexible with your schedule, you can sometimes save a substantial amount with these strategies to get rock-bottom rates:

Compare rates on several sites

Start your search for airfares through search engines such as Expedia, Travelocity and Kayak, which locate fares from a combination of carriers. Once you have identified your preferred airline, don't forget to visit that airline's own website too -- sometimes the lowest fares are found there!

Buy your ticket early

As a guide, book six weeks in advance for domestic flights and eight for international flights. You'll pay a premium if you wait to within 14 days of travel.

Consider travelling during shoulder season

This is the period between peak season and low season (which typically falls during the worst weather months), and it's when prices are generally lower. Shoulder season in Europe, for example, occurs in late August or early September; whereas for ski resorts it's November, when skiers generally don't arrive until the week of Christmas.

Fly on less popular days and times

Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays are the slowest air travel days and fares are lower. Also keep in mind that the least expensive flights tend to be the first flight of the day (most people don't want to get up early), after lunchtime as well as after dinner.

Consider connecting flights

Flights with layovers are substantially cheaper than direct flights.

Read the fine print of each airline's fee policy

Some airlines may have low fares but come with additional charges and taxes for carry-on bags in addition to checked-in luggage. These 'hidden' surcharges can make a big difference, so you want to make sure you get them right.

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