It’s already time to start thinking about summer travel.
When looking for fares, remember that the flexible traveler gets the best fares. The cheapest days to fly are usually Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Friday through Sunday fares can be up to $200 higher.
Fares to and from small regional airports can also be sky-high, so look at nearby airports for cheaper fares. A two-hour drive can mean substantial savings.
We checked fares from Dallas to Fort Wayne, Ind., in July, and the round-trip prices were $385 for travel on Tuesday or Wednesday, $429 for travel on Friday or Saturday and as high as $445 for travel Sunday to Sunday.
If you fly into Indianapolis instead, the round-trip airfare was $279 on Tuesday or Wednesday and $318 for travel on Friday or Saturday. Round-trip fares to Dayton, Ohio, were $279 on Tuesday or Wednesday and $330 on weekends. It’s about a two-hour drive between Fort Wayne and both Indianapolis or Dayton. Driving could save a family of four $400, or even more.
Even if you are not going to a small regional airport, summer fares can be high to some cities, but cheaper to alternate airports. If you’re going to Hartford, Conn., Providence, R.I., or Manchester, N.H., summer fares are averaging $400, but nearby Boston is as low as $278.
Off to Europe?
If you are heading to Europe, the summer season starts May 16. Travel to Europe is usually cheapest Monday-Thursday outbound. Friday-Sunday fares are usually $35 higher each way.
Fares are definitely cheaper if you avoid summer. So if possible, depart before May 16 or wait and depart Aug. 26 or after on many routes. On some routes, you’ll need to wait until after Labor Day.
One way to save on flights to Europe: Buy a domestic round-trip ticket to New York and take advantage of the lower fares out of New York. By buying two tickets, if you go in spring or fall you can save around $300 per person compared with a single round-trip ticket from Dallas to Milan.
If you want to travel in the fall, we expect to see an anniversary blowout sale from Southwest during the first or second week of June for travel around Aug. 25 to Dec. 18, with Thanksgiving blackouts.
In the past, the sale fares have been available every day but Friday and Sunday. Last year, we saw flights from Dallas to New Orleans, Corpus Christi and Harlingen for as low as $98 round trip.
You should start watching fares now and jump when you see a good one. If you’ve been tracking a fare that is in the $400 range and it suddenly drops to $250, you better not hesitate. Book it right away so your deal doesn’t fly away.
Tom Parsons is CEO of bestfares.com: firstname.lastname@example.org