If you haven’t even thought of a vacation yet – or are contemplating squeezing one last summer jaunt into the season – lucky you; you can save some money. All you do is fly on or after these two dates:
- Domestic flights: Aug. 22
- International flights: Aug. 21
Why Are These Dates a Big Deal?
The big deal is what these August dates represent: the start of the cheaper fall season. The airlines know that by these particular dates, kids are mostly back in school so demand slacks off significantly. Airlines still have to fill those empty seats, though, so they lower their ticket prices. Last month, for example, Southwest advertised a big sale for domestic travel, good for flights starting Aug. 22. Note: These cheap summer dates vary slightly year-by-year, but always occur in late August. In fact, this year’s Aug. 22 date may vary a day or so for some U.S. travelers depending on the departure city and route.
How Much Can You Save?
This, too, can vary. Generally speaking, travelers save anywhere from 11% to 20% off the peak summer airfares. The amount within that range will depend in part on where you take off, where you go, and whether you fly non-stop or on connecting flights. In almost every case, though, you will save something. Here are some examples of roundtrip fares found this week on FareCompare, my airfare comparison search site:
Los Angeles – New York, nonstop
- Aug. 19-21 – $483
- Aug. 26-28 – $403
Seattle – Dallas, one-stop
- Aug. 19-21 – $381
- Aug. 26-28 – $292
Boston – Dublin
- Aug. 19-26 – $750. one-stop; $1,128, nonstop
- Aug. 26-Sept. 2 – $590, one-stop; $979, nonstop
Note: The earlier Europe price of $750 may actually skew a bit high because it was found just a couple of weeks in advance of the travel date. Shoppers generally find the best Europe prices when they book three to four weeks in advance. Still, these fares offer a pretty good idea of what can be saved – which leads us to the next step.
When Should You Shop for These Cheaper Dates?
If you plan to fly on or shortly after Aug. 21/22, the time to shop is now. Again, 21 to 30 days in advance is ideal for booking flights on larger legacy carriers (including American, Delta, United). You have a little more leeway on the smaller, low cost carriers like Spirit and Frontier, which can offer deals one to two weeks before departure.
Are There Other Good Dates to Fly?
Flying throughout the fall is generally a bargain, especially if you stick to traveling on the traditionally cheaper days (Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday; weekdays for international flights).
Cheapest fall travel period: Early November. As long as you avoid flying the days immediately surrounding Thanksgiving, you will find some genuine deals, especially in the first couple of weeks in November. Then, once the Turkey Day travelers come home you’ll see more good deals through mid-December.
Suggestion: Make plans now for a winter vacation in January. If you can take off after the first week in January, the savings can be unreal (and this is true for a lot of international trips like Europe). Some Caribbean destinations might be pricey because that’s when people want to go.
If your first-choice destinations are too expensive, check out prices to Florida beaches like Miami or Ft. Lauderdale instead and you may find your bargain paradise.