Insider airfare secrets By Jessica Labrencis,

Insider airfare secrets
By Jessica Labrencis,
Although hundreds of thousands of travelers fly every day, finding the lowest fares is still a challenge
to many people. With this guide we’ll go back to basics and show you money-saving strategies that
ensure you’ll get the best flight at the best price for your budget every time you travel.
Check your calendar
To get the lowest fares, purchase your tickets at least seven, 14, or 21 days in advance. Waiting until
the last minute to purchase is like playing roulette: sometimes you get lucky, but more often than not,
you don’t.
The days of the week on which you choose to depart and return make a difference in overall price as
well. Historically, Fridays and Sundays are the busiest days of the week to travel, which also makes
them the most expensive. In general, you can find lower fares by traveling Mondays through Thursdays. If you must travel on the weekends, Saturdays are generally the most affordable option.
Although some airlines have done away with Saturday-night stay requirements, including a Saturday
night in your itinerary may still lead to the lowest fares. The fine print of most sales also usually
include minimum- and maximum-stay requirements.
Be flexible
To secure the lowest fares on any round-trip route, space must be available on both the departure
and return flights. If it isn’t available in both directions, one leg of the trip can increase the price of the
entire itinerary. Often, traveling a day or two before or after your original dates will make a difference
in the price you’ll end up paying. It’s worth experimenting with travel dates and times until you find the
lowest fare.
Most major travel websites and some airlines allow travelers to look for fares using flexible
searches. Travelocity allows travelers to search by any date period on any route, while Expedia
allows users to search by month on popular routes. Orbitz offers the option of searching one day
before or after your original travel dates, and its “Flex Search” tool allows you to search by weekend
travel, bonus days, and flexible stays.
Flexibility can extend to your arrival and departure airports as well. Many cities have several airports,
and flying into a secondary airport could save you money. If you’re traveling from Boston, consider
flying from Providence, Manchester, or Hartford instead—you might find a cheaper fare. Many
smaller airports are home to low-cost carriers that offer cheaper fares than major airlines.
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Insider airfare secrets
By Jessica Labrencis,
Compare fares
The first fare you see isn’t necessarily going to be the lowest. That’s why it’s critical to compare
fares before purchasing.
An easy way to compare fares from the airlines’ websites (both major airlines and low-cost carriers)
and third-party carriers like Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity, is to use a fare comparison tool like, a sister site of allows users to enter
cities and dates once, and compare fares from more than 40 websites, including all of the major
airlines and low-cost carriers.
If you find a fare you like on a third-party site, go to that airline’s website to see if it’s also available
directly from the airline. Most third-party sites charge a booking fee of $5 or $10, so it’s cheaper to
book directly with the airline.
Remember that several low-cost airlines, including JetBlue and Southwest, do not list their prices on
third-party sites. Since these carriers sometimes offer the lowest prices available on the routes they
fly, you should check their sites before booking with another airline.
Book a last-minute airfare
Although we advise against waiting until the last minute as a general rule, there are exceptions.
Airlines often release last-minute sale fares at rock-bottom prices for flights they haven’t filled. If
you’re just looking to get away and don’t have a specific destination in mind, this might be an option
for you.
The major airlines (American, Continental, Delta, Northwest, Southwest, United, and US Airways)
and some smaller airlines (Alaska, Frontier, Spirit, and others) release last-minute sale fares on
Mondays, Tuesdays, or Wednesdays for travel in the days and weeks ahead. Last-minute airfares
usually depart on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays, and return on Sundays through Wednesdays.
Most airlines send email newsletters with each week’s last-minute airfares to flyers who have signed
up on their websites. A better way to monitor all of the airlines’ last-minute fare sales is by signing up
for’s free last-minute airfare newsletters. The newsletters list all available lastminute fares tailored to the departure city of your choice, so you don’t have to scour each airline’s
website every week to find a cheap flight.
Most last-minute airfares don’t have an advance-booking requirement, allowing you to book right
before you fly. Even so, you should book as soon as you see a fare you like. Last-minute specials
are very limited and sell out quickly.
465 Medford Street, Suite 400, Boston, MA 02129
tel: 617.886.5555
fax: 617.886.5501
Insider airfare secrets
By Jessica Labrencis,
Keep an eye on the last-minute airfares released every week for your city and you’ll begin to notice
patterns. Competing airlines will generally offer last-minute fares on similar routes. Know which
airlines serve your city, and which cities are airline hubs. Soon you’ll be able to predict which airlines
are likely to offer low prices, and on which routes.
Use a specialty discount
Taking advantage of special discounts is a good way to save money on airfare, hotel stays, car
rentals, and other activities.
Families traveling together can take advantage of children’s discounts. While adults pay full price,
tickets for children age 12 and under will often be lower. Infants are usually permitted to sit on a
parent or guardian’s lap for the duration of a flight without purchasing a separate ticket. Some airlines offer discounts on airfare for groups of 10 or more (families or otherwise) traveling together on
the same itinerary.
Seniors can also benefit from discounts on airfare. Some airlines offer discounts for AARP members, while others have special senior rates. Senior airfare deals are often companion deals in which
seniors can bring a friend or family member at a discounted rate. AARP members can also receive
discounts on cruises, hotels, and vacation packages. Before booking a senior discount, however,
shop around and compare senior rates with regular adult rates to ensure you’re actually getting a
better deal.
Students (and, in many cases, anyone under 26) can take advantage of discounts from a number of
student travel agencies. STA Travel, Student Universe, and TravelCUTS specialize in student travel,
particularly European travel. Rail passes, hostel stays, museum visits, and more are discounted
with the International Student ID Card (ISIC), a student identity card valid for one year. People under
26 who are not eligible for the ISIC can save with the International Youth Travel Card (IYTC), an
identity card that also offers discounts on airline tickets, accommodations, and cultural events.
Know the rules for international travel
The general rules for finding a low price on international flights are similar to those for booking
domestic airfare: Book at least seven, 14, or 21 days in advance, travel midweek, and include a
Saturday-night stay in your itinerary. When traveling internationally, it’s even more important to know
your destination’s high and low season. The difference in price from season to season can be
hundreds of dollars.
465 Medford Street, Suite 400, Boston, MA 02129
tel: 617.886.5555
fax: 617.886.5501
Insider airfare secrets
By Jessica Labrencis,
If you travel to Europe in the peak summer season, for example, you can expect to pay double or
even triple what you’d pay for airfare in the off-peak winter season. If you travel to the Caribbean
between late spring and fall, you will pay hundreds less than if you travel in the winter. Visiting a
destination when most other people aren’t is a key factor in finding cheap airfare.
Unlike domestic flights, it may make sense to book different legs of your trip with different airlines.
Europe in particular has many intra-Continental airfare providers that offer super-low fares, sometimes as low as a few dollars each way before taxes. If you’re traveling to a less-visited destination
from the U.S. (Budapest, for example), and you can’t find a low fare, consider flying into one of
Europe’s hub cities, such as London. Then, look for an additional flight from London to Budapest on
an intra-Continental carrier. EasyJet and Ryanair are two of the major low-cost European carriers
with prices significantly lower than larger airlines’ fares.
Jessica Labrencis is the airfare beat editor for, the Web’s leading source for
unbiased travel deals and advice. This article was adapted from her Airfare 101 series. To read more
travel advice on a variety of topics, visit
465 Medford Street, Suite 400, Boston, MA 02129
tel: 617.886.5555
fax: 617.886.5501