Booking airline tickets can be stressful and frustrating. During a search for the best flight you begin to wonder...is this the cheapest rate I can really get? Is this the date I want? Am I willing to have 2 connections to save $50? Do I want to pay a fee to check my bags? Decisions, decisions. Here are some tips to make your travel planning a little less stressful and hopefully cheaper!
First, try not to buy your tickets over the weekend. Airline companies know this is when you have the most time to buy, so the prices will be higher. The best time to buy tickets is on Tuesday afternoons (after 3pm Eastern). This is when the airlines lower their prices from the weekend, and match each others sale prices. When you search for a departure date, you will find that the cheapest day to fly is Wednesday (this is because most people do not prefer to travel in the middle of the week), the second two cheapest days are Tuesday and Saturday. The most expensive days to travel are Friday and Sunday. (For more detailed information on how airlines price their flights, go here)
If you have flexible travel dates and timing options, I like to use kayak.com, which lets you add 1-3 days on arrival and departure dates to find the best price, and hipmunk.com, which allows you to see all departing dates and times in a select time range in one screen with prices and "pain" of flight. (high pain = 8 hour travel day with 3 connections...)
If you have a set destination in mind (I put my hometown in these searches) sign up for price reduction notifications, so you can buy a ticket when they are cheap!
If you can be spontaneous and plan a last minute trip, or are just looking for a travel deal with no specific destination in mind, it is advantageous to follow your airline of choice on Twitter, or "Like" them on Facebook. Many will announce deals and short sales, and you can be the first to know!
Lastly, when you do manage to book your flight (and hopefully saved some money), sign up for the airline's rewards program. Earning miles is usually free and you may get your seat upgraded. Additionally, after you travel a few times you can use those points for a free or discounted ticket!