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How to Save Money on Flights: 10 Tips to Get the Cheapest Airfare

Booking a flight can be an expensive endeavor, with the average domestic roundtrip ticket costing over $300. But travelers looking to visit far off destinations or reunite with long-distance loved ones need not pay exorbitant airfare. With some strategic planning and insider tricks, you can learn how to save money on flights and fly for less.

In this article, I’ll share 10 of my top tips for finding cheap plane tickets so you can get to your destination without going broke. From the best time to book flights to hacking airline miles, read on to start saving money on your next air adventure!

# Book Early to Catch the Best Fares

One of the golden rules of flight booking is that the earlier you book, the better deal you’ll get. Airlines release flight schedules and fares up to 11 months in advance. Generally, the magic time frame for the lowest prices is **1-3 months** before your travel dates.

For example, flights from Los Angeles to New York City around the Christmas holiday are averaging $550+ for departures in late December. But booking now for travel in mid-November yields fares under $300 roundtrip on most major airlines.

Booking 21+ days out can save you an average of $75 per ticket over last-minute bookings. So if budget is a concern, aim to lock in flights at least a few weeks ahead of time.

# Be Flexible with Departure Days/Times

Flight prices fluctuate based on the day of the week and time of day you’re traveling. Opting for off-peak days and red-eye flights is one of the easiest ways to save money on airfare.

Some sample savings for being flexible:

  • Flying midweek can save $30-100 compared to flying Friday-Sunday
  • Departing on Tuesday instead of Sunday for domestic trips can save $50 on average
  • Flying overnight or early morning flights is usually $50+ cheaper than peak evening times

Monitor prices across different dates and times to find the biggest bargains based on your schedule. Avoiding peak holiday travel times around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring Break can also lead to major savings.

# Leverage Flight Search Engines

Instead of checking individual airline sites, use meta search engines like Kayak, Google Flights, or Skyscanner to compare fares and options across airlines all in one place. Most allow you to filter flight searches by:

  • Price
  • Timeframe
  • Number of stops
  • Airlines

This makes it fast and simple to find the cheapest days and fastest routes to maximize savings. Pro tip: use “Flexible Dates” or “Whole Month” search filters to easily spot the cheapest weeks at a glance.

# Sign Up for Fare Alerts

Many airlines offer email subscriptions to get alerts when sales are released. This is an easy way to stay on top of deals and specials for your favorite go-to carriers. Sign up to receive alerts for both regional and broad fare sales.

Some airlines that offer fare email alerts and sales include:

  • Southwest
  • American
  • Delta
  • United
  • JetBlue
  • Frontier
  • Spirit

You can also set custom price alerts through Google Flights to get notified when rates drop below a target threshold.

# Avoid Flying Around Major Holidays

It will come as no surprise that airfare skyrockets around popular holiday travel weeks. For domestic flights, the most expensive times to fly are around:

  • Thanksgiving
  • The December holidays
  • Spring Break (March-April)
  • The Summer (June through August)

If your dates are flexible, check airfare a week before and after major holidays when airports are less crowded and prices are lower.

# Consider Nearby Alternative Airports

Familiarize yourself with all airports within driving distance of your end destination. Often alternate regional airports can offer drastically lower fares than the busy international hub airports.

For example, flying into Chicago Midway instead of O’Hare, or Burbank, CA instead of LAX can save $50-100 per ticket. Use Flight Search tools to check all nearby airports when researching options.

# Look Into Budget Airlines

Major budget carriers like Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant offer base fares substantially cheaper than competitors. Though you’ll pay more in add-on fees, their unbundled pricing model leads to big savings if you travel light.

Things to consider when booking budget airlines:

  • They often fly out of alternate regional airports
  • Watch out for hidden fees (carry-on, seat selection, etc.
  • Pack light to avoid checked bag fees

# Use Miles from Credit Cards or Airline Rewards

Racking up travel miles from credit card welcome bonuses and rewards programs can score you free or heavily discounted flights. Often it takes some effort to maximize value, but mile redemptions can beat paying cash.

Good options for redeeming miles include:

  • Domestic economy flights under 500 miles
  • International business class award tickets
  • Last-minute flights when cash fares are inflated

Refer to airline award charts to calculate the best value for redeeming your miles.

# Tips to Save Even More on Flights

A few final tips and tricks to spend less once you’ve booked your ticket:

  • Avoid seat selection fees by getting assigned seats for free at online check-in
  • Pack light and just bring a carry-on bag to avoid checked luggage fees
  • Book add-ons separately – pay less for seat upgrades, WiFi, etc when purchased directly

# Find Cheap Flights with Flexibility and Patience

At the end of the day, the ability to compare options and pounce when good deals arise will help you master the art of getting cheap plane tickets. As you look to your next vacation or trip home, hopefully these tips will maximize your savings on flights!