The reservation system gives you direct access to the same powerful database used by professional travel agents worldwide. The suggestions below will help you use the system to find the lowest fares. These guidelines are not absolute and may not apply in each and every situation but, by following them, you increase your likelihood of finding the right fare for you.
Stay over a Saturday night:
Staying past midnight on Saturday night can result in significant savings. However, occasionally a low fare will be introduced that does not require a minimum stay. This usually occurs in shuttle markets such as San Francisco to Los Angeles, or Boston to Washington.
Buy in advance:
The advance purchase schedule spans from three days to 21 days or more. You usually can secure the least expensive domestic and international fares 21 days in advance. For domestic flights, there are 14-day advance fares, and airlines occasionally offer 3-day advance fares as well. Airlines generally allow you to purchase tickets up to 331 days in advance of travel.
Use the same carrier for all flight segments:
When making more than simple one-way or round-trip reservations, try to use the same airline for all segments of your trip. Choosing "no preference" as your airline preference is a good way to figure out which airlines offer flights for all segments of your trip.
Many times on international itineraries, two or more airlines are necessary to cover all flight segments. This is an exception to the above rule, although even here you may benefit if you can find a consistent carrier.
Pick the right days of the week:
Travel on certain days of the week can be cheaper than on others. Currently, for most airlines, it's cheapest to fly on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday (except when a Saturday night stay-over is required). If you have the flexibility, try modifying the dates to find the lowest fares available.
Avoid holidays:
Traveling during the holidays is often more expensive. Most airlines have blackout days around popular holidays. Not only are the fares more expensive, but often you cannot use frequent flyer miles during these periods. Ironically, the day of the actual holiday (e.g., December 25, Thanksgiving Day, Memorial Sunday) is not commonly a blackout day and seats often are available right up to the last minute. Flying on the day of a major holiday can sometimes be a way around poor availability and expensive fares.
Consider frequent flyer programs:
Make sure that you are registered with the frequent flyer program of any airline that you fly. When making reservations, keep in mind that if you fly with the same airline, you can accumulate frequent flyer miles and be able to take advantage of the benefits offered with their frequent flyer programs.