It’s time to get your summer vacation plans in gear. As you would any time of year, always compare airfares before you buy, but these dates will also help you find better deals.
Cheapest days to fly for summer
Use these dates as a guide. Fare hikes (and drops) can vary slightly depending on the route, and airlines are constantly tweaking prices.
U.S. domestic flights
May 21: Airfare jumps slightly on this date as more expensive pre-summer pricing begins. Depart on or before May 20.
June 15: Another hike as the most expensive vacation fares go into effect. You can still save something by departing on or before June 14.
Aug. 30: The fall deal zone gets a little later start than in recent years, but if you can delay a trip until Aug. 30 you will see a drop from peak-season pricing.
Flights to Europe
May 12: Summer fares for Europe kick-in; if possible, depart on May 11 (or sooner).
Aug. 21: Trans-Atlantic fares drop on this date; fly in late August and avoid summer fares and summer crowds.
Flights to Asia
May 15: Prices jump for the pre-summer season; fly May 14 or earlier.
June 9: A more significant price hike gets underway; if you can, begin a trip by June 8.
July 20: The final price hike of the season.
Aug. 7: Summer prices drop somewhat.
Aug. 20: A more significant drop, and this would be a good time to fly.
Since not everyone can follow a cheap-date calendar, here are some tips to save whenever you fly:
Fly cheap days: For domestic flights Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays are usually cheaper than the others (try to avoid Fridays and Sundays). For international flights, midweek dates are often cheaper than weekends.
Fly connecting flights: Longer flights can often be cheaper if you include a stop, so always compare the price of non-stops and connecting flights. If flying internationally, check out prices for flights with two stops — yes it will be inconvenient, but it might be a lot cheaper.
Fly cheaper airports: Those in smaller cities should always compare fares from the hometown airport as well as the nearest hub airport. Bigger often means cheaper and if it’s cheap enough, that longer drive to the airport might not seem so long.
Fly cheaper destinations: Boston, Dallas, Denver and Seattle continue to be bargains from many departure cities; we’ve also been seeing a lot of deals to Paris, London, Scandinavian cities and Beijing. There are tools on a number of airfare search sites (including my own, Farecompare.com) that show precisely which cities are cheapest from your town.