The economy might not be great right now for a lot of people globally, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still take a break and enjoy a vacation. You just have to look for deals — and in the fall you can often find great flight deals to a wide variety of destinations.
Keep the following tips in mind when you’re booking your trip, and you might just come across a flight deal this fall that you can’t pass up!
1. Use online comparison sites.
Online flight and hotel comparison sites can be great tools for finding flight deals not only in the fall, but year-round. While you won’t always find the best deals, the point is that you can compare offers from multiple airlines in one place. With deals changing rapidly, you could miss out on a decent flight deal if you tried to compare the same sites manually (and much more slowly).
If you do find a decent deal on a comparison site, you can always quickly give the airline a call to see if they have any better offers available if you book through them directly.
Here are some flight comparison sites you might want to try:
2. Make sure it’s the off-season at your destination.
If you try to travel during peak tourist season at your destination, chances are good that you’re going to get a lousy deal. When more people are competing for a limited number of seats, airlines can charge a premium for them.
I’ll give you a personal example. I’ve been toying with the idea of taking a trip to the U.K. (from the east coast of the U.S.) for a while now. I’ve tracked flight prices among other things to determine the best time of the year to go. Here’s the gist of what I’ve come across.
When I tracked flight prices through the fall and winter (just basic economy seats for a non-stop flight from New York to London) you could get tickets pretty easily in the $400-500 range round trip. Just two years ago a family member managed to get a deal for even less than that for a similar flight. Then in the spring into the summer, I watched the rates go up, up, up. They stopped around $750 for the same flights (on the low end based on price comparison sites — you could certainly find higher prices if you were a glutton for punishment).
It was all about the off-season. If you can still do the things you want to do when most tourists aren’t visiting the area, then do it even if it might be a little cooler out. Sometimes the off-season will surprise you. You might not have to wait until the weather’s awful, but just until people are done with the bulk of the summer rush or when students go back to school.
3. Look for last minute deals.
Sometimes the best deals offered are last minute deals. That’s because airlines want to fill as many seats as possible. If the flight date is approaching and there are still a bunch of unbooked seats, it’s in the airline’s best interest to get someone on board for $300 let’s say than to have an empty seat, even if other passengers paid twice that by booking earlier.
You can try to get last minute deals in person at the airport, but a better option is to set up email alerts with comparison sites or even the airlines themselves if they offer them. You’ll get an email featuring several last minute deals. This is a great option if you want to go away but you’re not really fussy about where or when (think of it as an adventure when a deal comes up that you just don’t want to pass up).
4. Check multiple departure points.
You might be surprised to find out that the airport you depart from (or even fly into) can play a big role in the price of your plane tickets. For example, I live about an hour from Philadelphia. I initially started researching ticket prices from there. Then someone recommended to me that I check Newark (northern New Jersey — about a two hour drive for me). I did, and was astonished to see how much lower the fares were for practically the same flights. I could save $100 or more round trip in some cases.
Then I thought “what about leaving from New York?” It’s not that much further than driving to Newark for me, and I have family up there (meaning I could leave my car safely with them and have them drop me at the airport). Some of the tickets were cheaper still! I was shocked at the difference between leaving from JFK and leaving from Philadelphia.
I compared a few other hypothetical flights to compare departure points. JFK didn’t always beat Newark (in fact Newark seemed to have the lower prices more often). The fact that it varied though is just a testament to the fact that you should compare airports every time you want to fly. Comparing airports could even be a bigger money saver than comparing airlines!
5. Don’t travel over the holidays.
While you might not have a choice (if you need to fly over the holidays to see family), avoid it if you can. At the very least, try to avoid the busiest holiday travel days. Why? Because getting a good deal isn’t just about the money you lay out. It’s also about the experience. Even if you could save $50 on a ticket, is it worth it if you’re in an overcrowded airport for hours with delayed flights and cranky passengers all around you? I’d say “no.”
At the same time, some airlines have even been known to charge premiums on busy holiday travel days (meaning your ticket might be slightly marked up if you want to travel on “premium” days). The easiest way around this is to schedule carefully. For example, while a lot of people are traveling home the Sunday after Thanksgiving in the U.S., you might be able to get a much better deal (and less airport stress) if you can go home on the following Monday or Tuesday instead.
Finding a good flight deal this fall might take a bit of leg work and looking around, but they’re definitely out there! Being flexible in your travel plans can go a long way towards saving you some money. And who knows? That off-season trip might just prove to be one of the most relaxing and enjoyable holidays you’ve ever taken (minus all the other tourists of course)!