Stress-Free Summer Vacation Planning: 5 Tips for Buying Cheap Flights & Saving Money

The data is in: after a long slump, Americans are traveling again. With a reported 8 out of 10 Americans planning a summer vacation (over 70% staying stateside), you might find our tips useful for keeping the stress levels low and the fun quotient high while saving you some cash along the way.

summer flights

Timing is key
For Summer travel, you should be thinking about booking now. Summer flights are popular and fares are not likely to drop significantly further. On average, we’ve found that 54 days from your travel dates is the sweet spot for purchasing airline tickets, though summer flights to popular destinations may benefit from a bit more of an advance purchasing strategy.

Along with “when to buy” you’ll want to consider the month you go. Domestically, July is the most popular (and expensive!) time to vacation. August is a greater value (with travelers saving $42 an airline ticket over July), and September is even better if you can swing it.

There’s really no great time to travel to Europe in the summer if cost savings is your goal. Many Americans flood the capital cities of Europe all summer long and many Europeans take their holidays in August, so demand drives up accommodation and flight prices, even among the low-cost carriers like RyanAir and easyJet.

Better fares for Europe are usually found in spring and fall, and lucky for you European weather is generally fantastic in the shoulder season. Keep your eyes peeled for last minute deals if you’re flexible. And speaking of flexibility….

Consider a mid-week departure
When we put our Summer Flights report together, there were obvious trends:

• Tuesdays and Wednesdays offer the best value and cheapest flights.
• Sundays are hands down the most expensive days to fly (with most Saturdays a close second).
• Unless it’s absolutely necessary, fly mid-week.
• If you’re flying internationally, don’t discount the savings you get from this travel hack. International flights are so expensive these days that even a 5% savings can make a difference, and saving 10% from changing up a weekend fare to a mid-week flight itinerary can shave hundreds of dollars off a trip for a family of four.

When it comes to airports and airline selection, throw away the rulebook
CheapAir.com often has the best airfares when you utilize our “mix and match” search option. This means you might fly out on American and return on United. If it saves you a little bit of extra money, why not?

If you’re planning vacations in spots like southern California or New York, where there are multiple airports in one municipality, check fares into alternate airports. Your expensive family trip to Disneyland might benefit from a bit of creative planning. For example, you could check flights out of Newark and into LAX instead of LaGuardia to Orange County (SNA). On some summer travel dates, those tweaks can save more than $200 for a family of 4. Why is this? Larger stateside airports usually offer better airfare. Smaller, regional airports with less frequent schedules are typically more expensive. You may live near a smaller airport, but sometimes a bit of a drive is worth it. Just do your homework. Sometimes the cost savings can trump convenience.

Open-Jaw itineraries are worth the research
It didn’t used to be the case, but these days if you’re planning a multi-city trek, the savings can be great when you fly into one city and out of another. Start with a list of your must-see cities and then look into airfares in and out of each. You can sometimes snag substantial savings by organizing your trip around the best airfares, and flying in and out of different cities to bookend your trip. To do this, use the “multi-city” flight search on CheapAir.com. These days in Europe, low cost air carriers and the always-reliable train network can help you fill in the blanks. And the low-cost air carriers can sometimes beat rail cost (in both timing and actual dollars). It’s well worth it to get into the nitty-gritty and look into all the options.

stress-free travel planning

Don’t get caught up in anxiety-inducing and self-defeating strategies like waiting for the “Best” fare
This might be the most important stress-relieving tip of all. A lot of vacation planning stress comes when you’re simply trying to get a rock bottom airfare. We have some novel advice in this department: let it go. Yes, lose the impulse to hang on for the “best” fare. If you’ve been watching fares for a while, you should have developed a sense of what a “good fare” looks like. When you see one of those, our best advice is to hop on it! Every day we get email and phone questions like this one: “I saw a really great fare two days ago but I just checked and it’s gone! The only fares I see now are almost $150 more!” Don’t be that guy. Don’t treat your vacation like you’d treat a night gambling in Vegas. The House always wins and the airlines do too. You can read more about airline pricing here. If you see a good price, consider it your golden ticket and book it. And if you book with us, we have a neat little feature called Price Drop Payback that will protect you should the airfare go down after you buy – each ticket, up to $100. Say goodbye to buyer’s remorse!

There you have it. Follow this handy dandy little cheat sheet to book a stress-free summer vacation for this year or the next. Happy travels!

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2 Comments

  1. Hi I planed to travel from LAX to DCA in November 16 ( 6th Nov). The current ticket prices are around 900USD for 2Adults & 2 Kids(one way). This is on Alaska air. Could you please let me know if this is the standard price or would there be a price drop closer to the Journey ?.

    Likewise I will also be in Toronto in November. flying back to LAX from Pearson airport on 12th Nov. & thicker price is around 800USD one way. Again should I book it now or should I wait till August to get the tickets ?.
    Appreciate any help.

    thanks and regards
    Mayuran

    1. Hi Mayuran, Is the $900 price for one ticket? That seems high. $300 a ticket for one ways sounds like a very good price for a coast to coast trip, however. I see flights for as low as $167 one way on United (with one stop) or around $200 on Alaskan). If the $900 is the per ticket price, you should also look into buying a cheaper round trip and then just letting the return “go”. You lose that portion of the trip, but since you don’t need it anyway, if it saves you a few hundred dollars it’s worth taking the “loss.” We would probably recommend you purchasing those tickets very soon if you still see those fares. I think the cost for the Toronto to LAX portion seems very high and I might wait until closer to the end of summer to purchase. I see fares on Air Canada for $195 USD. That’s a much better price.

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