If you’re a traveler, you’ve undoubtedly found yourself with a last-minute booking at some point or another. The first thing to know is that airlines set fares based on how far out they’re purchased. But there’s a way to save money when booking flights last-minute by being flexible in your travel date and departure time.
Offering more flexibility in your travel date, departure time, or both can often lead to lower fares, and it is worth adding the extra steps before you book. For example, flying on off-peak days can save you up to 40% off the usual fare – not bad!
If you’re only changing one variable like that, try increasing flexibility by booking on different low-fare days, such as weekday mornings or late at night after 9 p.m.
Here are Some Tips:
1) Be flexible with destinations
Sure, checking if traveling a day later or from a neighboring airport can save you money is always a good idea, but for significant savings, try extending your flexibility to the destination. For example, flying within the U.S. is almost always cheaper than flying internationally to locations like the Caribbean or Europe, and it’s easy to combine city-to-city travel with some time spent on a layover.
2) Adjust your departure time
For many people, flexibility in their arrival time will yield the biggest savings on their tickets as they can avoid higher fares after a certain number of hours (like most international flights). Try being available to take off 5 minutes earlier than usual, which could save you dozens of dollars.
3) Use the airline’s site to search multiple airports
Booking on the airline’s site is the best way to find the best fare, but if you’re booking a last-minute flight and only have time to check out one or two airports, try using a multi-airport search tool like Kayak.com. While it might not be as good as booking directly with the airline, it can help you get a last-minute flight at a better price.
4) Search for fares individually
Search for a single seat at a time, even if you’re traveling with a family of four. What is the explanation behind this? Those automatic fee systems that govern the alphabet soup of pricing are badly conceived, and they will only search for four seats at the same price. But if you search for four seats separately, on the landing page that is shown after a few return flights are shown, a cheaper fare may appear.
5) Be flexible with your dates
If there is any room to be flexible with your travel dates and take a connecting flight on another day, then do it. Try setting your search parameters on the furthest flight and then clicking the set calendar arrow to go back one day by day until you find the best flight. Sometimes airlines have special fare sales that only last for a short time – often six days or less – and the earlier you buy, the better deal you get.
6) Beware of baggage fees
Many people will be surprised to learn that baggage fees are not included in the base fare of an airline ticket. However, if you have bags that weigh over a certain amount (typically 20 pounds or less), you will have to add extra money to your ticket for each luggage you plan on taking with you.
7) Try booking a connecting flight
Sometimes the biggest savings will come by connecting through another city or airport, especially if you’re taking a long road trip or flying between cities that aren’t too far away. Sometimes the savings on a single flight can be up to 30% or more.
8) Try a last-minute rewards search
Many airlines offer reward miles or points for flying last minute, so you can earn free travel by taking a last-minute flight! There’s no harm in checking to see what your options are.
9) Take advantage of the slow rebound of business class fares
Many airlines like American and Korean Air offer business class seats for less than what first class would normally cost, especially if you’re willing to book flights on a day that isn’t peak vacation week. But be careful on the road to booking this type of flight as the slow rebound of business class fares can be deceiving, so know that you could end up paying more in the long run than with a more standard fare.
Read More: Alaska Airlines Flight Change Policy