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The most common mistakes people make when booking airfare

Summer travel can be expensive, but avoiding these booking mistakes can help you save.

Summer travel is usually more expensive as more people go on vacation, heightening demand for flights, hotel rooms and car rentals. But that doesn’t mean you have to go into debt for a trip. Hopper, the flight prediction app, analyzed real-time flight search data to determine most common mistakes travelers make when booking airfare. Avoid these missteps, and you’re sure to save on your next vacation.

Mistake: Booking at the wrong time

One of the most common mistakes people make is booking too early. We get it, you’re excited to plan your itinerary, but acting prematurely could end up costing you more. Even though flights go on sale 11 months in advance, Hopper says travelers won’t catch a deal more than 150 days before takeoff.

Hopper’s analysis predicts that “booking more than six months ahead can cost you since airlines set their initial prices conservatively.” While the waiting game can be frustrating, Hopper suggests consumers can save $38 on domestic trips and up to $474 on international fare by waiting.

On the flipside, you can also pay more by booking too late. Ideally, travelers should book airfare between 25 and 150 days before departure to secure the best deal. If you book with less than a month to go, you could end up paying $139 more, on average, on domestic trips and $529 more on international flights. Hopper gives the example of Boston to San Diego, a popular business route where prices rise sharply prior to departure. The same goes for many consumer-oriented markets, like Boston and Honolulu.

Mistake: Being too rigid with your itinerary

Locking yourself into travel dates without researching fares can lead to paying more. One of the biggest mistakes travelers make is only searching for flights on the days they’ve preselected. If you don’t absolutely have to leave on a certain date, you should also look three days in either way to see if it makes a difference in cost. Hopper says that “flying on Friday will cost you 20% more than flying on the cheapest day, which is Tuesday.” For hotels, it’s always more expensive to stay over the weekend, with Saturday stays costing 4% more. Being flexible with dates can save travelers an average of $65 on domestic trips and $198 on international itineraries, according to Hopper.

Selecting an alternative airport is a good way to save money on airfare.

It also pays to consider alternative airports if the city has more than one option. For instance, New York and Washington, D.C., both have three airports serving travelers, giving you more options when it comes to pricing. Seeking out an alternative could save you an average of $32 on domestic travel and $99 on international trips, according to Hopper.

Another mistake travelers make is booking their flight before booking a hotel. Many people believe hotel rates drop at the last minute, and apps like Hotel Tonight have capitalized on these discounts. But according to Hopper, the best hotel deals can actually be found two to three months in advance. Flights, however, may still drop during this 90-day window, so it may make sense for you to book your accommodations first.

Try it on your next vacation, and you could save up to $34 a night, Hopper says.

Mistake: Not doing research

Sometimes you get lucky and the first fare you find is the cheapest. But this isn’t typically the case. Hopper’s data shows that two out of three ticket prices will actually drop within 24 hours of the original search. So it’s probably a good idea to search around and exhaust all of your options before clicking “buy.”  It’s also important to remember that most US carriers allow you to cancel your reservation within 24 hours for free. If you book and then find a cheaper price the next day, take advantage of this perk.

Setting a price alert helps with comparing prices as well. It’s impossible to search every travel booking site for the best deal, so let the apps do the work for you. Hopper, Airfare Watchdog, Kayak, and Google Flights let you to sign up for alerts that inform you when ticket prices drop. Doing this can save you $52 on domestic flights and $106 on international routes.

Brittany is reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @bjonescooper

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