The low-cost way to get where you've got to go
Air travel is expensive, but most web-savvy travelers know how to use aggregate sites to find the cheapest airfare options. Beyond airline deals, though, there are days of the week when it's cheaper to fly, and days of the week when you'll get the best deal on tickets. You may not be able to get out of going to that family wedding in Tulsa, but you can at least save a bundle getting there.
Cheapest days to fly
If your travel days are flexible, you stand the greatest chance of being able to save money on your flights. The accepted wisdom in the travel industry is that the two cheapest days to fly are Tuesday and Wednesday. In terms of weekend travel, flights leaving on a Saturday are significantly cheaper than flights leaving Friday or Sunday. To maximize savings on each of these days, avoid afternoon fares which are the airline industry version of rush hour. Picking the earliest possible departure time is another great way to save money.
Differences in fares
By switching your travel to the Tuesday or Wednesday of that week, or by traveling earlier in the morning on those days, you can be looking at savings of up to $100 or more. Most airline websites and aggregator sites have a flexible date feature that allows you to look at fare options for the date of desired travel, as well as the day before and after. This price comparison can give you a sense of what times and days are cheapest depending on your destination. By doing that extra research, you could save a few hundred dollars.
Domestic and international flights
When traveling within the United States, generally flights between major cities (i.e., New York and Los Angeles) will have several flights daily, making it easier to get a cheaper fare. When traveling internationally, look for two things: budget airlines, and gateway cities. Flying into a foreign city like Vienna, Dublin, London or Amsterdam that are served by airlines from Europe and the United States means there is a greater competition for airlines and thus a greater chance for you to save. Often buying a ticket to one of these global hubs and then purchasing a connecting flight on an aggregator site will give you the best possible rates.
Best day to book and other considerations
Older wisdom suggested that the best day to book flights was Tuesday, but experts say that that's largely a myth at this point. Generally you will only save about 10% booking first thing on Tuesday, so instead of waiting for the stroke of midnight Monday night, expand your efforts by searching a number of flight aggregator sites instead of just one, and comparing the prices you find.
When searching aggregator sites for fares, it's a good idea to do so in a private or incognito window. If you search the same flight itinerary a number of times, websites can gather this data and use it to increase the price they show you, to scare you into buying the pricier fare. Don't fall for it. Keep all your airfare searches secret to save the most.