#23: Airline Tickets

This is part of a series in which we re-evaluate Money Magazine’s “25 Rules To Grow Rich By”. One “rule” will be re-evaluated each weekday until the series concludes; you can keep tabs on the action at the 25 Rules index.

What’s the Best Way to Buy Airline Tickets?

Rule #23: Buy airline tickets early because the cheapest fares are snapped up first. Most seats go on sale 11 months in advance.

While this rule is generally true (the earlier you buy, generally the cheaper the ticket), there are a lot of other methods that are much better at improving your flight prices than this one. Take this list, for example, from how to buy cheap airline tickets on eHow:

STEP 1: Keep yourself updated on airfare wars by watching the news and reading the newspaper. Look for limited-time promotional fares from major airlines and airline companies just starting up.

STEP 2: Be flexible in scheduling your flight. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays are typically the cheapest days to fly; late-night flights (‘red-eyes’), very early morning flights and flights with at least one stop tend to be discounted as well.

STEP 3: Ask the airline if it offers travel packages to save money in other areas. For instance, is a rental car or hotel room available at a discount along with the airline ticket?

STEP 4: Find out whether the stated fare is the cheapest, and inquire about other options when speaking to the airline reservations clerk. If you’re using the Internet, check more than one Web site and compare rates.

STEP 5: Inquire about standby fares if you’re flying off-season. High season is a bad time to fly standby because most airlines overbook flights, making it difficult to find a spare seat.

STEP 6: Purchase tickets through consolidators, who buy blocks of tickets and sell them at a discount to help an airline fill up all available seats. Check the travel section of the newspaper under ‘Ticket Consolidators.’

STEP 7: Book early. You can purchase advance-ticket discounts by reserving 21 days ahead; book even earlier for holiday flights, especially in November and December. Keep in mind that holiday ‘blackout periods’ may prevent you from using frequent-flier miles.

STEP 8: Stay with the same airline during your entire trip to receive round-trip or connecting fare discounts.

Each of these “steps” are quite useful in reducing your airline costs, but that’s a lot of information for one simple rule. Thankfully, these rules codify into one simple statement quite easily: buy early, compare rates, and be flexible.

Let’s rewrite that rule.

Rewritten Rule #23: Save money on airline tickets by buying early, comparing rates, and being flexible when it comes to carriers and options.

You can jump ahead to rule #24 or jump back to rule #22.

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