By Richard Moy, Cheapism.com
Summer is ideal for getaways, both short and long. But the rising costs of airfare have made cheap summer travel a thing of the past. Still, there are plenty of ways to get your travel fix at a price you can afford. Here are a few tips on how to find cheap summer airfare.Book early to save money on airline tickets.
Book early. Ticket prices rise as your desired travel date approaches, so book your flight as soon as you've decided to take a trip. The New York Times recently reported that a round-trip flight from Seattle to London jumped 35 percent in just four days. Once you find a cheap summer airfare, book it.
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Go directly through the carrier. Online resources such as CheapOair and Kayak are great resources for cheap summer travel. But airlines often guarantee the lowest fares through their own websites. Although travel websites offer cheap summer airfare, always check your preferred airline before booking.
Be flexible. Leaving for vacation on a Friday may seem ideal, but this high-demand day will cost you. If you're flexible about the days you depart and return, you'll increase the chances of landing cheap summer airfare. Wednesday is usually the cheapest day to fly, and USA Today reports savings can easily reach 50% if you add a weekend night to your cheap summer travel itinerary.
If you're open to the possibility of a last-minute flight, you increase the chance of scoring cheap summer airfare. Airlines often unload empty seats at discounted prices on day-of flights and those scheduled through the upcoming weekend.
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Go with airlines that refund the difference if the fare drops. Have you ever booked cheap summer airfare only to find the price for the same trip plummeted the following day? Many airlines charge a fee to change a flight, but some simply refund the difference. The Consumerist compiled a chart outlining airline refund policies, which can be useful when making cheap summer travel plans.
Search for hotel and travel packages. Buying services as package deals is usually a money-saver, especially when booking a vacation. Websites like Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity let you search for hotel + air, and occasionally you'll find a "last minute" flight pop-up for even cheaper summer airfare.
Become a frequent-flier connoisseur. To compete with the increasingly popular travel websites, many airlines offer incentives for direct purchases. These offers frequently are sent through email but may pop up on the carrier's Facebook or Twitter pages. Airfarewatchdog.com is a resource for customers on the prowl for cheap summer airfare.
Related: Travel website recommendationsAnother local airport may have cheaper fares than your regular choice.
Third-party alerts can also help you plan cheap summer travel. Tripadvisor.com and Farecompare.com are good resources, but these alerts are generated from the same information used by the airlines' computer systems.
Check with your credit card providers to see if you're eligible for a free flight, an upgrade, or a discount on airfare and/or hotel. Most major airlines offer frequent flyer programs that accept points earned through your credit card.
Keep an eye on additional fees. Although it may appear that one airline offers lower fares than another, check how much you'll pay for bags, ticket fees, and other not-so-obvious charges. A bag-check fee may cancel out savings on airfare, so be informed.
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Airports are not created equal. While it's often easier to fly into a major hub like JFK, LAX, or SFO, you may snag cheap summer airfare by flying into a nearby airport. For instance, before booking a flight into JFK, check flights into Newark, which is 30 minutes by train into midtown Manhattan. You may need a rental car if you land at an airport that's farther away from your destination. If that cost offsets your savings, you might as well book a flight into the hub.
Consider booking one-way flights. Booking a round-trip ticket sometimes saves money on airfare. Most airlines, though, sell one-way tickets for both legs of a trip. Use this opportunity to find the cheapest summer travel options. Select the cheapest summer airfare at one airport - perhaps by choosing different airlines - or fly in and out of different airports.
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