If you’re not a frequent traveler, Aug. 23 may have had no special significance, but for those of us who spend a lot of time in the sky, it was even better than Black Friday. That’s because Aug. 23, aka Cheap Flight Day, marked the start of the fall travel season, when airlines typically drop fares on many if not most of their routes. Here are some answers to common questions about Cheap Flight Day and some tips on getting the best fall fares out of Austin.
I didn’t book anything on Aug. 23! Did I miss my chance? No! Cheap Flight Day should really be called Cheap Flight Season, because the reduced fares will continue to be available (and could even drop more) through early November.
Why do the airlines start lowering fares on Aug. 23? By Aug. 23, the majority of kids have gone back to school and the demand for leisure travel decreases a lot. Airlines know this, so they drop fares by 20 percent or more.
Does this apply to international flights? Yes! There’s a drop in fares for international as well as domestic flights.
What are the best days to fly to get a good fare? Traditionally, traveling on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays will get you the best deals, but that can vary widely depending on where and when you’re going.
How far in advance should I book fall travel? Typically you want to book at least 30 days ahead.
Where can I go on the cheap in the next few months? Here’s a sample of some deals I found last week out of Austin in September and October. All deals were active as of press time:
- Austin to Denver, traveling Sept. 21-24: $78.20 round-trip on Frontier Airlines. (Note: Frontier is a low-cost airline that charges extra for seats, luggage, etc. This fare is for a free middle seat with only a small carry-on; if you have other specifications, you’ll pay more.)
- Austin to Chicago O’Hare, traveling Oct. 15-19: $96.20 round-trip on United Airlines.
- Austin to Montreal, traveling Sept. 7-13: $322 round-trip on American Airlines.
- Austin to Beijing, traveling Sept. 8-15: $620.36 round-trip on Delta.
What sites can help me find good deals? If you want to get out of town but don’t care where you’re going, try using airfarewatchdog.com. You can enter your departure city and it will give you a list of places where you can travel for cheap. I also like kayak.com, hipmunk.com and travelzoo.com. And be sure to sign up for weekly alerts and last-minute deal alerts on the major airline websites, including flyfrontier.com/ways-to-save/online-deals, travel.southwest.com/specialoffers and united.com/web/en-US/apps/booking/specials/default.aspx.
What are some other tips for finding deals this fall?
- Don’t forget to include Houston, San Antonio and Dallas as possible departure cities in your searches, especially for international travel. It can be worth the drive if you can score a low fare.
- Consider booking a trip to a place where you can access a national park, as it’s the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and there are lots of park-related deals to be found.
- Be flexible with your dates. You know how most airlines offer a calendar view that allows you to see all of the fares to a particular destination for the month? If you have some wiggle room in terms of when you travel, book according to the lowest fare.