[Rick Seaney is the CEO and cofounder of FareCompare, and columnist for Investopedia. The views expressed by columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Investopedia.]
Back in June, I talked about cheaper days to fly during the pricey summer season. I want to revisit the topic now because the cheapest days of summer are right around the corner. This may sound strange but the cheap fares of autumn are unleashed in August.
When do cheap fall prices begin?
Aug. 28 marks the start of the fall travel season in most of the U.S. This late-August price break occurs because most children have returned to school, drying up demand for family summer vacations. If you live in a smaller city with less airline competition, there may be a slight variation of this "first day of fall" date, but usually only by a day or two. An easy way to find the start date for savings from your town is by using a search-by-month tool such as the one on my site, but there are plenty of others. This will instantly determine the cheapest days to fly in August and September, and beyond.
Is there a different date for Europe’s cheap fall prices?
Yes. Technically, Europe’s cheaper fall season begins on or about Sept. 10, but we’ve been seeing such good deals to Europe – even in the peak of summer – that this year’s seasons have gotten a bit blurred. That’s good news for travelers, of course; when looking for ideas on where to go or when, don’t be afraid to poke through prices to destinations you always assumed would be too expensive; they may not be. The prices we’ve seen from September to mid-December have been so good that the only thing that might stop you is how much chilly weather you want to endure.
Look at the deals
These fares popped up earlier this week when I set a search tool to travel in September. Best part? All these fares are non-stops.
- New York to San Jose, CA: $201
- New York to Ponce, Puerto Rico: $191
- New York to Paris: $298
What about smaller cities?
Because smaller cities typically have fewer travelers and less airline competition, prices are often higher overall with fewer of the big airfare drops that larger cities enjoy. For example, Hartford to Paris runs about $500 roundtrip in September, while Hartford to San Jose will set you back about $380. Connecticut may abut New York, but it generally can’t hold a candle to NYC's airfare prices
Are there other ways to save?
Yes. These tips will help those living in smaller cities take better advantage of fall pricing.
- Fly from the closest hub-type airport to your hometown. It could be a long drive but it could result in big savings.
- Accept the fact that connecting flights can often save a lot of money over non-stops.
- Forget flying Fridays and Sundays. Instead, fly the absolute cheapest days. A deal-finding tool can help you find these dates.
When do these crazy airfare dollar days end?
U.S. domestic fares will continue a gentle price drop until mid-November when fares go through the roof for Thanksgiving travel. This happens year after year, yet it still surprises so many of us. If you plan to fly at Thanksgiving, buy your tickets soon.
As for Europe fares, prices will be low through mid-December. Then, watch for a sharp rise for Christmas and New Year’s travel.
If you’re like many U.S. employees who only use about half the vacation time they’ve earned, maybe it’s time to use it on something fun like travel. So go find your own crazy dollar-days fares and get on a plane. Your computer screen will still be there when you get back.