Plan Your Trip

Five ways to get the best deal on a flight

Looking for a break from the everyday? Find out how to get the cheapest flights and vacation packages with these insider tips.

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Photo, iStockphoto.

With all the competition in the air, scoring a cheap flight is easier than ever. We asked travel insiders for their tips on when to book, how to book and the apps and sites to do it with. Follow their five suggestions and you’ll be on that beach before you know it (without maxing out your credit card).

1. Book early. Very early.
The No. 1 rule: Buy your tickets far in advance! “If you’re going during peak season [Christmas, spring break or summer], you definitely want to book ahead. The prices are only going to go up as the space fills up,” said Allison Wallace, a spokesperson with Flight Centre. “You want to book at least six months before your trip.”

2. Book all-inclusives in September
All-inclusive charter companies want find out what demand is early in the season, so they offer incentives to customers around September. “At that time you not only get the best price, but there are often other incentives for booking then too,” says Ashley Evert, product support business leader for Flight Centre. Offers can include room upgrades, bonus reward points and more flexible dates. And you still have time to save up: typically you only have to put down a deposit, and you can pay the balance a couple of months later.

3. Fly mid-week
“If you’re going to a main city centre like New York or L.A., you’ll probably see more demand at the beginning and end of the week, so you’ll likely find better prices mid-week,” said Wallace. You’ll get the best prices by flying on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Saturdays.

4. Mix and match
Just because you get there on one airline doesn’t mean you have to come back on it too. Online travel-booking sites, such as Expedia or Travelocity, let you choose the best flight prices individually. You’re likely to find better times as well as better prices by picking different companies. If you want someone else to do the math for you, try Kayak, which automatically offers options that include taking two airlines.

5. Get the app
Need a little help to find the best prices? Enter your itinerary into Yapta, an iPhone app, and it will send you alerts when flight and hotel prices drop. If the price of your flight drops after you’ve booked, it will also shows you if a refund is available. Other sites, including Skyscanner, Kayak, Travelocity and Expedia, also offer fare-alert services that will email you or send you a message when good flight prices are announced.