It’s simple economics: If you want to get low prices, buy stuff when nobody else is. That includes air conditioners in the dead of winter, but it also extends to travel.
While airfare can always be expected to spike during high-traffic periods like spring break and Christmas, there are much cheaper fares to be had if you avoid warm-weather months and popular vacation periods.
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To find out the best weekends for cheap airfare, we spoke to George Hobica of AirfareWatchdog, which tracks airfares throughout the year. Based on historical data, he was able to identify the weekends of 2012 that can be expected to have the lowest airfare.
Yes, one of the cheapest weekends of the year is this coming weekend. After all, the holidays are now behind us, but the cold weather means that it’s not peak time for travel.
Of course, the fact that the weekend is just a few days away makes it a little tricky to find great prices on such short notice. But Hobica says that you can generally find last-minute travel deals if you know where to look – when nobody’s traveling, airlines are always eager to fill up last-minute vacancies on their planes.
If you want to travel this winter, this is actually the last weekend to really travel on the cheap – the next weekend on our list doesn’t come around until September. That makes sense, when you think about it: After this weekend you have school vacations, then President’s Day weekend, then suddenly it’s spring break season, followed by summer. So if you want to get one more winter vacation in before fares go up, the first weekend in February is your last chance.
It’s no mistake that the first weekend after kids go back to school is among the cheapest to travel. Once the summer travel season and Labor Day are behind us, fares dip in a big way. Hey, when’s the last time you heard about someone taking a big vacation in September?
Now is as good a time as any to remind you that if you want really cheap airfare, you should avoid weekends altogether. When we spoke to Hobica back in November, he said the best days of the week to fly are Tuesdays and Wednesdays. And if you’ve ever read the fine print on the fare sales frequently run by carriers like JetBlue and Southwest, you’ve probably noticed that those fares often don’t apply on Fridays and Sundays, when most people fly.
That’s another September weekend – clearly, this is the best month to get cheap fares. But where should you go if you’re traveling during the fall?
Hobica suggests the Caribbean, noting that hurricane season tends to send airfares way down for this part of the world. Of course, that means you’re taking a risk that a storm will ruin your vacation, which is why he recommends buying travel insurance if you choose this strategy.
Yes, all four weekends in September are cheap to travel, and for good reason: The kids are back in school, the weather is cooler and hurricanes pound the Caribbean and Florida.
For more options for a good fall travel destinations that will allow you to take advantage of the low seasonal fares, check out MainStreet’s roundup of five “off-peak” destinations that are both fun and cheap to visit.
As the weather starts to grow cold, it stands to reason that demand for trips to warmer destinations will start to rise, and fares along with it. But as Hobica points out, it’s primarily the northern states that really start to get chilly around this time. The rest of the country is still fairly comfortable, so we see fares stay fairly cheap.
Thanksgiving arrives later this month, so it’s no surprise that demand, and thus fares, are low this first weekend of November – at this point, most people are just waiting until the holiday to get their travel done.
“People are keeping their powder dry, saving their money for the big-ticket items,” Hobica says.
Nov. 30-Dec. 2
It probably comes as no surprise that the few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are cheap to travel. If you just traveled for Thanksgiving and will be flying again for Christmas, there’s little chance you’re going to take yet another vacation in between. That low demand could mean cheap flights for people who don’t mind doing a lot of flying to end the year.
If you’re the type to save all your vacation days until December, consider using it for this, the last of the “in-between” weekends when fares are cheap.