Rethink how you buy airfare.
As we approach summer, airfares tend to rise and this year is likely to be no exception. Travel research app Hopper predicts that domestic flight prices will rise to about $229 round trip in April, from $218 in February — and up to $251 by June.
That makes it even more important that you’re smart about booking your flights. Unfortunately, many of us fall for some pervasive flight-booking myths. Here are four.
Myth 1: It’s almost always cheaper to have a layover.
Data released Monday from Hopper found that while, on average, you can save roughly five percent by choosing a flight with one stop, there are “an increasing number of non-stop flights available now that are cheaper” than those with a stop. Their research found that was true for about one in three flight queries.
“It comes down to who is competing in the market,” says Patrick Surry, Hopper’s chief data scientist.
“For example, if the only nonstop option is a major legacy carrier, then other carriers will discount their options with stops to a lower price to compete for the business. But in a market where it’s a low-cost carrier that serves the nonstop, it can often be the case that options with stops (on major carriers) are more expensive.”
Myth 2: Booking on Tuesday is a sure way to score deals
You’ve probably heard this “rule” before, but it’s one of the most pervasive flight myths out there. An analysis by flight deal site CheapAir found that the average fares purchased were nearly identical on each day of the week and Hopper found that Tuesday was the cheapest day to buy a flight for just 1.6 percent of domestic routes.
“While Tuesday historically was the day many airlines scheduled their sales — and competitors would match and compete that same day, into Wednesday morning — the explosion of tools through which people are getting information these days means any day can be an airfare sale day,” says Gabe Saglie, an anchor and producer at travel site Travelzoo.
But that doesn’t mean timing doesn’t matter. Instead of focusing on which day to book, you may want to put more weight into the time of year and day of the week you depart.
Wednesday tends to be the cheapest day to fly, the CheapAir analysis found and January tends to have the best flight deals, followed by February; by summer, flight prices creep up significantly.
Even better: Track prices for desired flights through a site like Google Flights — this month, Google even launched a feature where you can set a budget and from that get ideas on where to travel — and set fare alerts with a site like Yapta.
Myth 3: The earlier you book your flight, the better the deals
There’s a sweet spot for booking flights — and too early and too late likely aren’t gonna help you out. A CheapAir analysis of domestic airfare found that there’s often a “prime booking window” for flights and it’s between 21 and 121 days before departure.
That is “usually the best time to buy,” the report reveals.
“Fares bounce around, but frequently are available for within five percent of the lowest price.”
You can sometimes save more than $200 by following this rule. Booking between 169-319 days ahead you’d pay roughly $50 more and waiting until the last minute could result in fares that are upward of $200 more than the lowest fare.
When booking, don’t just default to getting a round trip fare with the same airline. “Switch it up,” says Saglie.
“The airline that gives you the rock bottom fare to get there may not be the one offering the best flight bargain back, so compare round-trip flights with one-way flights on different carriers.”
Myth 4: Staying through the weekend costs you more
More often than not, this isn’t true, new data from Hopper found.
“With the exception of flights to the Caribbean (which has a six percent premium for Saturday night says), all other destinations have a discount with a Saturday night stay. Want to get the most savings? Head to Europe — the average discount is almost 40 percent for including a Saturday night stay. Domestic flights and international flights to Canada, Oceania, Mexico and Central America offer savings of less than three percent,” the Hopper report revealed.
Surry notes that whether or not staying through the weekend will be more cost effective will usually depend on whether “weekend versus weekdays” is a reliable way to discriminate leisure travelers from people flying for work.
“For US to Europe, it’s rare for someone to vacation mid-week without a Saturday stay and vice versa, uncommon for a business traveler to want to stay over a weekend. So airlines can charge business travelers more based on whether the trip includes a weekend.
“In other markets, like domestic US flights, that logic doesn’t work so well, so they can’t maintain a price discrepancy. And in others, like the Caribbean, it’s actually reversed — there’s more leisure demand with week-long trips being very popular, so airlines actually charge more for trips containing a Saturday night.”
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