Spending: Secrets for saving on airfare
-- Avoid peak travel days. If you're taking a weeklong domestic trip, depart on a Saturday and return on a Monday and you'll score a 16-percent discount on your airfare, according to Kayak.com, the travel website. For weeklong international trips, departing on Tuesday and returning on Wednesday of the following week saves 21 percent, on average. If you're visiting a touristy location, such as a beach town, avoid weekend-to-weekend travel. The opposite is true when visiting popular convention cities. Besides saving money, you will often travel on less-crowded flights and go through shorter airport security lines.
-- Tweak travel dates and destinations. Last year, September was the cheapest month to fly domestically, according to Kayak. No matter which month you travel, plug your home airport and getaway location into http://www.hotwire.com/tripstarter/index.jsp to see the cheapest times to fly. Not sure where you want to go? Check out http://www.kayak.com/explore. The interactive map shows you how much it costs to fly from your hometown to dozens of domestic and international destinations.
-- Check your inbox. Keep up with email alerts or "follow" airlines and alert sites, such as Airfarewatchdog, on social media. Not only do you get first dibs on flash sales, but you also develop a point of reference to recognize good deals. And note that domestic airfares are cheapest seven weeks before departure, according to CheapAir, an airfare booking site.
-- Get a deal on extras. Several airlines have introduced new ways of bundling fees. For example, Delta's $21 "Ascend" package includes in-flight Wi-Fi and priority boarding. American Airlines' $68 "Choice Essential" package includes a checked bag, a reservation change and Group 1 boarding. Some bundles are more valuable than others. American's package is a deal if you suspect that your itinerary might change. Delta's is more about saving a few bucks.
Book first and think later. You have 24 hours to change your mind and get a refund without paying a penalty.
(Susannah Snider is a staff writer at Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. Send your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. And for more on this and similar money topics, visit http://www.Kiplinger.com.)