Summer 2017 is set to be a big record for air travel – more than 234 million travelers* are expected to fly in the months of June to August. That means that, on average, there will be about 2.5 million passengers passing through U.S. airports every day, with about 31 million travelers headed to international hotspots.
That’s a lot of bags and bodies, people. Luckily, CheapAir.com has put together some useful tips to help you navigate this very busy travel season and help keep your sanity on your way to your summer travel destinations.
How to score a deal on your domestic airline tickets
As is often the case, timing can be everything. July is by far the busiest travel month, so this extra demand makes the airfares for the month that much more expensive (people are willing to pay a premium in July). If you can travel in August or even September, you can still find great fares all over the country. CheapAir’s Summer Flight Page is a great place to start your research because we break down the best days to fly on an easy-to-read, color-coded calendar. In general, weekend flights are more expensive and mid-week flights (Tuesday and Thursday) will save you the most money all summer long.
What about European flights?
Two of the top 5 international destinations this summer are European (the United Kingdom and Germany), so we don’t want to neglect those folks headed across the pond. Check out our European Summer Flights Page and see which dates are offering the best value, on average. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are the most affordable days of the week to fly, so try to organize your itinerary to include at least one of these days. Not surprisingly, the weekends are the most costly, with Saturdays being the most expensive weekend option, on average.
Other international destinations that round out the top 5 for summer are Mexico, Canada and Japan.
A little bit about packing….
If you can swing it, flying carry-on only is your best bet (it’s the cheapest option, your bags can’t go missing if they’re with you on the plane) but if you just can’t make that a reality, there are a few things you can do to make your life easier should a bag go missing. If you have a family or travel partner, divide and conquer – meaning don’t pack all of your stuff in YOUR checked bag so you’re not high and dry. Spread things around and keep anything you absolutely cannot do without in your carry-on bags.
…and how to pay the minimum for your baggage
Every airline has a different policy about baggage allowances and fees, but generally speaking, in 2017 you’re going to have to pay for your bags. You can minimize the cost by planning ahead. Every airline except for Alaska charges more for your second bag (a big incentive for thrifty folks). Sometimes even paying ahead of time can save you big–Spirit and Frontier charge on a sliding scale – you’ll pay the most at the gate. Southwest is now the only domestic airline holding tight to the free bags policy (2 bags per paying customer and they have to weigh 50 pounds or less). If you’re not the best at pre-planning, expect to pay about $200 extra for a family of 4’s bags, so you don’t get any nasty “surprises” at the airport.
Give yourself a ton of airport hang-time
Does spending extra time at the airport sound like the worst advice? If your answer is yes, you probably haven’t been in a major airport lately. Airports have really upped their amenities game, with more and more options for weary travelers. With heavy travel days slated all summer, you need to give yourself extra time for clearing security and making it to your gate with a minimum of stress. Our advice is to check out what amenities are available at your local airport. Maybe you can book yourself a massage while you wait!
Security clearance can be a breeze
Watch the TSA’s short, easy video on how to keep things moving along smoothly on your travel day. Most holdups are due to forbidden items making it into your bags. So, make sure you do a quick check before you leave the house and remove anything that will get you detained for extra review. If you’re just not sure if you can bring it through security, use the TSA’s handy dandy “Can I Bring It” tool. If you can’t find your item there, feel free to reach out to the TSA team on Twitter @AskTSA to find out in a jiffy.
A word about 3 key Rookie mistakes (don’t worry, we’ve all been there)…
You’d be surprised at how many people forget to review their ticket when booking. Make sure your airline ticket matches your photo i.d. exactly. When you catch a mistake on your ticket upon confirmation, airlines allow you to make corrections 24 hours after booking. Once that window closes, changing your ticket (even to make a tiny correction) becomes infinitely more complicated and costly (yes, you will be charged a “change” fee). Some passengers decide to take their chances on the TSA allowing them to fly with the mistakes, but everyone should know that the TSA is under no obligation to make those kinds of exceptions. Even if they do agree to do additional screening, it may be a lengthy process. Why risk missing your flight? Just save yourself the agony and plan to review your ticket as soon as it’s confirmed.
You should always check with the airlines 24 hours before your flight because you could miss an important schedule change. If your flight leaves 20 minutes earlier than you planned on a busy travel day, you may miss it.
Don’t forget your ticket or photo i.d.! We highly recommend a check and then a double-check before we leave the house to make sure we’ve got all necessary travel documents with us.
That’s it! It’s going to be a busy travel season and you’re going to be a part of it. Aren’t you glad you’ve dotted your air travel I’s and crossed those airport logistic T’s?
*Source: Airlines for America