How to Score the Best Airfare

National Geographic Traveler editor at large Christopher Elliott is the magazine’s consumer advocate and ombudsman. Over the past 15 years he has helped countless readers fix their trips.

Here’s his latest advice:

Reader Question: I’m shopping for airfare to South Florida. I heard that if I wait until after midnight on a Tuesday, I can score a deal. Is that true?

My Answer: Not so much.

“That’s an urban myth built on some half-truths,” says Rick Seaney, the chief executive of FareCompare.com.

Chris Lopinto, who runs the site ExpertFlyer.com, agrees. “There is no one perfect time. Fares can be loaded and changed multiple times a day,” he says.

So how to find the deals? Fly in the off-season or over a weekend. Book at least a month early and monitor the price to see if it goes down, using a site like Yapta.com, says Lopinto. If it does, you can use the site to adjust your fare, if the rules allow it.

Bargain hounds who stay up late to find specials may or may not save a few bucks, but that kind of sleep deprivation is almost never worth your time.

Christopher Elliott is Traveler magazine’s consumer advocate and pens the “Problem Solved” column for the magazine (this exchange appeared in the December 2014 issue). Follow Christopher’s story on Twitter @elliottdotorg.

Do you have a burning travel question? Share it with us in the comments section below for a chance to appear in Traveler magazine.

Comments

  1. Tiffany
    Tampa
    March 15, 2015, 1:24 am

    Personally I am in love with Google Flights. They show you the prices per day and can show you the cheapest days to fly. They also have little headlines on the Web page suggesting other airports that offer cheaper tickets. The Web page is easy to navigate and visually simple. I saved 150 bucks on my plane ticket by using Google Flights and will use them every time.

  2. Robyn Michaels
    Chicago
    February 22, 2015, 9:40 am

    I want to go to Zambia & Malawi to see some projects i have been supporting (I am a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer from Malawi). Airfare in winter (Dec—Feb), when it is convenient for me to travel, is 13 higher than it is starting around March (& then there is the visa & a yellow fever shot..). Is it possible to buy a ticket 8 months in advance? Insure it? some sites say they can’t go that far out…

  3. Iris
    seattle
    February 1, 2015, 9:31 pm

    Is there a site that will let me track prices of flights leaving form a European city and let me know when price goes down . I can find several form US cities but none form European cities

  4. Pam
    Grand canyon
    January 22, 2015, 8:23 pm

    I live in va. If like to take my 7 year old to see the Grand Canyon and redwood Forrest . Looking for tips on best way to do this, drive? Fly? Hotels? Things to do? Places to eat?

  5. Cyril Guiraud
    San Francisco
    January 22, 2015, 6:18 pm

    Have you tried FLYR? (getflyr.com). FLYR is a flight search tool that uses predictive analytics to find the best airfare. Enter in your typical flight search and FLYR shows you the lowest available fares as well as the probabilities of fares increasing or selling out – or if better deals will become available. It makes a “Buy” or “Wait” recommendation depending on the odds, which makes decisions easier.

  6. Theresa Jimino
    Maine
    January 21, 2015, 11:05 am

    What is the best time to take a cruise if you are from the North East?

  7. Charles McCool
    McCoolTravel.com
    January 20, 2015, 7:12 pm

    Thank you, Rick, Chris, and Christopher. I have busting this myth for a long time and it is great to see the same on a bigger platform.