If you’re travelling anywhere of distance, chances are you’ll be flying. But with limited Canadian competition, domestic flights can be as costly as trips abroad. Additionally, ever fluctuating fare prices can be as unpredictable as a Charlie Sheen rant. However, there are things you can do to to better your chances of finding cheaper flights. Here are 6 tips:
1. Keep flexible
When you travel can have a huge impact on your costs. Flying on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or taking a red eye or early morning flight can mean big savings.
2. Set up a price watch
Many travel sites such as Skyscanner, Airfare Watchdog and Kayak let you monitor fares with trackers alerting you of price drops. The app Hopper allows you to track and predicts the best booking time for a particular fight.
3. Timing is everything
Choose the optimal time to book. Research has shown that on average it’s best to book North American flights 47 to 54 days in advance, and flights abroad 96 to 318 days ahead, depending on the destination. Booking less than a week ahead usually means significantly higher fares (close to $75 more for under two weeks, $200 more for less than a week). The best day to book is usually Tuesday.
4. Avoid peak dates
Flying within a week either side of Christmas, during the peak July/August holiday period, or prior to a long weekend can be costly. Flying in the middle of a long weekend or on the actual holiday itself, can mean lower fares during those peak periods.
5. Travel light
In keeping with a growing airline industry trend of charging for extras, most airlines now charge a checked baggage fee. Leave the massive shoe collection at home and maximize your carry on luggage to save on the check-in fee. But take comfort knowing that bathroom tissue and those delectable pretzels, are still free (for now anyway!)
6. Make a run for the border
U.S. or smaller local airports such as Abbotsford may offer less expensive flights than flying from larger Canadian centres. In a land of greater competition, savings on U.S flights can be partially negated because of the exchange rate, however you can still frequently find cheap flights leaving border airports like Bellingham or Seattle.
Recently announced plans to change foreign ownership rules of Canadian based airlines (from 25% to 49%) may lead to more competition and lower fares. However, until then, a good strategy may be your best ticket to savings.