It’s summertime and your friends and co-workers are constantly talking about their upcoming vacations to far-flung places.
As for you, well, you’re a procrastinator. You want to go on a trip but you haven’t gotten around to booking airline tickets and you fear you won’t be able to afford to go anywhere now that summer is upon us.
Before you start worrying about spending your vacation time at home feeding your fish, we’ve got some good news: there are ways to save money on last minute airline tickets.
Want to find out how you can save money on airfare? We thought so. Check out our 5 top ways to score flight deals at the 11th hour.
1. Be flexible on your travel days and times
Did you know that you can often get a lower price by traveling on a Tuesday or Wednesday?
According to travel experts, flights on these two days tends to be lower-priced than flights on other days of the week, especially on weekends. Why? Most business travelers are already at their destinations, so the airlines are often willing to lower prices to fill vacant seats.
Sometimes you can grab a great deal by booking a red-eye flight, a super early morning flight, or a flight with a connection and a long layover. Generally speaking, red-eye flights are almost always lower-priced than flights during waking hours, according to Cheapflights, a flight comparison site.
2. Shop around
Sometimes airlines run last-minute sales. At other times, you can grab the best deals by purchasing flights on third-party travel aggregator sites. The point here is: start shopping around and comparing prices right now.
Besides Cheapflights, here are five other websites you can visit to research low-priced flights: Last Minute Travel, Airfarewatchdog, CheapAir, Kayak, and Expedia.
While you’re bargain-hunting and comparison shopping, make sure you also go directly to airline websites or even call your favorite airlines.
Oftentimes airlines offer the best deals to those who book directly. If you do a quick search on Air Canada, for example, you’ll see that the airline offers hundreds of last-minute deals through Air Canada Vacations.
As you shop around, make sure you follow airlines and travel sites on social media channels, particularly Twitter. Why? Airlines and third party sites often use social platforms to announce deals to their followers. Besides, it never hurts to be the first to learn about low-priced airfare.
3. Pick your destination based on the cheapest flight
Ok, this may seem a little backwards. But, stay with me here. If you are not sure where you want to go but you know you want to go somewhere, why not start by seeing where you can go for the lowest price?
To start, look for flight deals and when you find the best one, bingo: start packing your bags and get ready for an adventure.
Last year, I tried this out first-hand. After a stressful winter, I decided I wanted to go to an island.
My thought process: any island would do, as long as there was sand, surf and sun. So, I went onto Expedia and found a great flight deal to Grand Cayman.
I even booked a package that included four nights at a luxury beachfront resort. The airline and hotel likely had unsold inventory as the travel dates were around the corner.
The end result: I booked the vacation, saved thousands and had an incredible trip.
Here’s another pro tip to get a great deal: try to find the lowest airline prices using the map found on Google Flights. By clicking on “Explore Destinations,” you’ll see a wide range of airline prices for different destinations.
4. Use your airline miles
Got miles? Now may be the perfect time to redeem them.
If your travel dates are flexible, you can often find deals using lower amounts of miles. This takes a bit of research but may be well worth it as you can sometimes use airline miles to pay for part or all of your airfare.
Last summer, for example, I flew round-trip to Europe on a European airline using my miles. Yet, I had racked up most of these miles on my co-branded travel rewards credit card with another airline. Huh? This may sound confusing, but it’s really pretty straightforward. Here’s what I did:
To find my ideal flight using the least amount of miles, I went directly to the website of the airline where I had earned all my miles.
I searched for flights and then scrolled through about a dozen flights and prices on the airline’s flight locator page.
Once I made it through all the flights operated by this airline, my search then yielded flights from partner airlines. And lo and behold: I found a flight servicing my route of choice for a fraction of the miles.
I booked it and ended up flying on a codeshare, which means that the flight was shared by both the airline affiliated with my credit card and another European partner airline. Same flight for half the amount of miles. Score!
If this all sounds great but you don’t have a travel rewards credit card, no worries. You can always apply for one. A travel rewards card may be a great choice for you if you want to travel in the future.
Using this type of credit card, your purchases will help you accumulate miles that you can redeem for airline tickets.
You can start researching card options by checking out some top travel rewards credit cards from the experts at LendingArch.
5. Consider alternate airports
Thinking of taking a summer vacation to Boston? Did you know that you can sometimes snag a cheaper flight if you fly into nearby airports in Providence, Rhode Island or Manchester, New Hampshire?
In fact, airports near big cities sometimes offer lower-priced flights. And, if you can’t find a direct, non-stop flight into a second-tier city, you may also want to consider booking a flight that makes a stop in a major city first. This will often result in a lower fare.
So, when you set out to research and find low-priced airline tickets, remember to look into all the airports nearby and remain flexible.
Are You Ready to Pack Your Bags?
While it’s always a smart idea to book your travel as far ahead of time as possible, you can still save money on your last minute airfare. If you follow the 5 tips above and set aside time to do your research, you’ll be on your way to saving money and enjoying your spur-of-the-moment trip. Bon voyage!