Now that we have your attention, are you ready to find out why you shouldn't believe those overhyped advertisements?
First off, those enticing "65% Off!", "70% Off!", and "80% Off!" ads generally refer to "discounts" off the highest-priced, most-restricted ticket classes (refundable, etc.). What the carriers are really saying is that there are cheaper flights out there than the most expensive tickets. News flash! In most cases, they're providing absolutely no support that any of those discounts exist under any circumstances.
Here's the bottom line: Most leisure travelers never actually buy the costliest, most-restricted tickets. Those are generally picked up by business travelers shopping on the company dime. With low-cost airlines, online travel agents, and flexible date searches all factoring in to your price hunting, it's rare that you'd ever pay the highest possible price anyway. So that 80% off "discount" doesn't apply to any flight you're likely to book.
For the best strategy, search flights from a wide variety of providers. Comparing rates is the only way to ensure you're getting a competitive price. It's the closest thing you've got to a foolproof strategy for booking flights. Here are our top tips:
- Most domestic airlines release sales on Tuesdays, with the majority of competitors matching these deals within 24 hours. To take advantage of these airfare sales and have the largest amount of seats to choose from, search for fares on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Historically, Saturdays have also proved fair prices for domestic travel.
- When heading to a destination serviced by multiple airports, be sure to check them all to ensure you're getting the best fare. For example, if you're flying to New York City, search for the major airports (JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark), as well as smaller options (Long Island/Islip and White Plains).
- Be flexible with your dates. Searching a range of dates gives you a good ballpark budget for what you can expect to spend on airfare.
- Search, then search again. Frequently checking fares for your preferred route over a fixed period of time (e.g., once or twice per day over a week or two) gives you an in-depth, realistic understanding of what your airfare costs should be. Then, when you see a price you think is fair, book with confidence, knowing you've locked in the best fare for your route and budget.
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