The skyrocketing price of gasoline is causing airfares to rise almost weekly and sales are being offered less often. Still, you don’t have to stay close to home this summer. Airfare deals are still available if you know where to look. Here are a few tips:
Despite what you read in the press, the best airfares almost always go to those travelers who can book their flights well in advance. You can make reservations on most airlines 11 months prior to the flight, and many major airlines will refund the difference to you should your airfare decrease after you buy your tickets. Those who book early also get the best schedules and best seat assignments.
Take advantage of Internet specials
If you can’t book early, then you might just find a deal on Tuesday mornings for travel the same weekend. Several airlines, including United Airlines, Delta Airlines and US Airways post specials each Tuesday morning online. There are limited seats for these deals and you must purchase your non-refundable tickets at the same time you make your reservation. Still, you can save a bundle if you can travel at the last minute.
Max out your points
Even if you only take one or two trips a year, you can take advantage of airline mileage programs if you’re careful. Pick one airline and try to concentrate all of your travel on that air carrier. To reach a reward plateau sooner, earn additional points by using a credit card that lets you accumulate mileage on your airline. You can also earn mileage points on most programs by staying at participating hotels and renting a car from a partner company.
Booking your hotel, airfare and/or car rental arrangements together can often save you money compared to paying for each component separately. Most airlines have tour desks that can help you with a vacation package. In addition, a good travel agent or travel booking site, like Orbitz or Expedia, can help you book a vacation package. Because the airline or tour company reserves so many seats, rooms and/or cars each year, they generally get a better price than you can by yourself. Don’t be afraid of the word, “tour.” Today’s tours are simply bundles of travel components, not buses of vacationers being herded from city to city.
Check the charters
Tour companies often run chartered planes between major cities and popular vacation destinations, such as Las Vegas, Orlando or South Florida. Unlike scheduled flights, these planes are generally non-stop and operate on a limited schedule. Everyone on a charter flight is headed on vacation, so in addition to being less expensive, they have a festive, upbeat vibe. Popular charter companies include Apple Vacations and FunJet Vacations.
Don’t let the price of jet fuel ground your summer vacation. With a little time and effort, even an occasional traveler can reap big savings on airfare. How do you get the best deals for your vacation?
Stephanie Cable is a writer for CableTV.com. She loves to read, run, and is a pop culture nerd.