3 Tips to Find the Lowest Holiday Airfares

Planning to fly for the holidays? Since you’ll already face extra-busy airports and increased security for the busiest travel period of the year, the last thing you want to deal with is sold-out flights and seriously jacked-up fares.

We wrote a couple months ago about how airlines are practicing “disciplined capacity management” to boost profits – in other words, keeping planes full by not offering more flights, which also means they have less reason to offer discounts. That doesn’t mean you can’t find a cheap ticket, though – it just means you’ll have to be a little more creative and flexible with your planning.

As mentioned in the video above, the first places to check are sites that scour multiple airlines and offer price guarantees, like Orbitz.com. According to their policy, if you find a better deal elsewhere, they’ll send you a check for the difference. So the sooner you book, the more likely you are to save – you’ll either catch the deals on the front end, or get the same benefit as somebody who finds a cheap fare at the last minute.

And don’t forget Southwest. You won’t find their flights on any consolidator site, because they refuse to pay commissions.

Another trick to big savings is when you book and when your flight leaves. According to FareCompare.com, the best days to travel are Tuesday and Wednesday, first thing in the morning – most people don’t like flying out at 5 a.m. in the middle of the week, so you can trade convenience for savings. And they say the best time to book your tickets is on Tuesday afternoons around 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time because airlines typically post deals on Mondays, while on Tuesdays, airlines try to beat their competition and that means the best fares pop up later that day.

Of course, not everybody agrees on the best time to book - at least one expert claims you should book after midnight on Tuesday. If you’re still up then, it wouldn’t hurt to check.

FareCompare also has a handy e-mail alert system that can track prices for your favorite routes, and let you know when prices drop. Another site that offers this is Yapta.com.

Did you know that several airlines add extra fees just for traveling on certain dates around the holidays? This isn’t even a matter of supply and demand fluctuation, which obviously also affects fares – it’s just something tacked on because they can get away with it. The fees vary but go up to $30 each way per ticket. That stacks up fast if you’re traveling with family, but you can avoid those fees using this chart, or by traveling on Thanksgiving or Christmas day.

To help make your travel experience even smoother, be sure to check out our stories 6 Tips to Avoiding Flight Delays and Airfares Take Off – 6 Tips to Land Savings.

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