According to a survey from Insuranks, 79% of Americans feel that flying is too expensive this year. Of those who did fly in 2022, nearly one in 10 lost an average of $243 due to delays and cancellations. And although airfare prices dropped during the fall, they are expected to rise again for the holidays.
Fortunately, if you are ready for an excursion after staying close to home throughout the pandemic, there are ways to make air travel more affordable. Learning some hacks from travel experts can save you time, stress and money on flights during the holiday season and beyond.
While you can certainly wear dark glasses and a trench coat to the airport, it probably won’t help you save any cash. But searching for flights after clearing your web browser’s cache, or while using incognito mode, could help,
“Always clear your web browser cache or use incognito mode if you are checking flight prices multiple times,” Rax Suen, a travel blogger, podcast host and founder of Nomads Unveiled, told GoBankingRates. “Some airline websites track your browsing history and will show repeat visitors a different and higher price to cause FOMO (fear of missing out).”
Don’t Wait To Book
According to Expedia’s 2023 Air Travel Hacks Report, booking domestic flights between 28–35 days in advance can save you 10% on average. But don’t book too early, as domestic airfare is often the most expensive in the 3 1/2 to 6 months before departure.
Flights can be harder to find the closer it gets to the holidays, as well. Hayley Berg, lead economist for the travel search and booking app Hopper, told NPR that airlines will have nearly 15% fewer flights than in 2019, even though demand may be equal to or above pre-pandemic levels.
It pays to book flights on a Sunday, when you can save an average of 5% on domestic flights and 15% on international flights, according to Expedia.
Travel During Off-Peak And Shoulder Periods
Traveling off-peak is typically more economical. But historically, there are far fewer flight delays during spring and fall compared to the busier months, as well.
“Shoulder season” isn’t an actual season. Instead, it refers to the period sandwiched between a region’s peak and off-peak seasons. Flying during these times typically nets lower prices, decent weather (resulting in fewer delays) and smaller crowds.
Use A Shipping Service For Luggage
If you can fly with only a carry-on, you can save money on checked bag fees. Plus, you won’t have to worry about replacing lost or damaged items if your luggage is lost by the airline (one in five Americans report experiencing this in the past). You can also save the time it takes to check in and retrieve your luggage.
But if you need more than you can carry, consider using a service that will ship your luggage for you.
“This way, you don’t have to carry your bags through the airport or wait to get them at the chaotic baggage claim — and you avoid the high baggage fees, since their prices start at $15 per bag,” travel expert Valerie Joy Wilson of Trusted Travel Girl told Reader’s Digest. “It makes traveling so much easier, especially during the holidays when the airports are extra crowded and luggage space comes at a premium.”
If you plan to travel during the peak holiday season, try to have flexibility regarding when you fly. Doing so can help you find more affordable fares. And, since there may be fewer flights available overall, it could be the difference between flying to your destination and not finding a flight at all.
“Most travelers are going to want to fly a few days before the holiday and return a few days after. That means prices on those dates are going to be extremely high, capacity is going to sell out, airports are going to be chaotic,” Berg told NPR.
Fly Mid-Week And Early In The Day
The day and time of your flight can also mean deep savings. Expedia found that departing on a Wednesday can save customers up to 15% on a flight. Saturday, Sunday and Monday are typically the priciest days to fly out.
In addition, if you can book a flight that departs before 3 p.m., you have a lower chance of cancellations and delays. Based on year-to-date flight status data, flights departing after 3 p.m. are 50% likelier to be delayed than earlier flights.
Consider Investing In Travel Insurance
Anticipate travel delays and cancellations during the holiday travel season. Travel insurance, which is typically reasonable in cost, can make a big difference in the event of an unforeseen expense. For example, it can cover the costs of canceled flights or hotel rooms and much more.
While it is optional, you’ll be thankful you have travel insurance if things get messy. Sasha Gainullin, a travel insurance expert, told BuzzFeed that around 30% of people who buy travel insurance end up using it. Experts do expect a busy holiday season this year, meaning delays and cancellations will be up.
And even if you don’t need it, having peace of mind can make your air travel so much easier.
By Tricia Goss, for Newsy.