When is the cheapest time to fly?

When to Find the Best Price on Airline Tickets

Once you've got a cheap airfare, you can save more by skipping in-flight meals.
Once you've got a cheap airfare, you can save more by skipping in-flight meals.
Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Getty Images

Web sites designed to take the guesswork out of travel are a great place to look for airfare deals. Trend Tracker is a tool created by Expedia that allows you to enter your intended departure time and destination to find the lowest airfare prices over a two-year period.

For example, if you plug in a departure city, such as Atlanta, and select a destination, say, Cancun, Mexico, you can get an idea of how much it costs to fly at different times of the year. After trying the same procedure with departure cities across America, we learned something important: It's expensive to fly to Cancun in December. However, January and November seem to be great times to fly. Additionally, whenever the data revealed November as being the average low, the dates coincided with the Thanksgiving holiday.

Destination plays a role in the price of your airfare. Take Orlando, Fla. -- a popular vacation spot. The data reveals February and April as the two most expensive months to fly while November and January seem to be the cheapest. In other words, you can expect to pay higher rates during peak vacation times (like spring break), but January and November seem to be good times to find cheap airfare. Warm destinations like Cancun are popular in December when it's cold, so flying during the off-season is going to be cheaper.

Data like this is useful, but it doesn't give you the whole story. You also need to know how to find cheap airfare. Be as flexible as you can when you look to book a ticket. If you're set on flying on a certain type of plane or with a specific airline, you severely limit your options.

Discount airlines are a great place to find cheap airfare. You may miss out on some of the amenities you'd find on a more expensive airline, but if you're willing to fly on an airline like JetBlue Airways or AirTran, you may be able to save some serious money. These types of airlines constantly offer low rates, sometimes even close to the departure date.

The day you fly can also make a difference. JetBlue, for instance, has in the past offered round trip flights from Boston to Los Angeles for as little as $238 [source: Koenig]. But blackout dates -- dates which the deals are not offered -- come into play. Holidays and the days immediately preceding and following them are often blacked out. In addition, for some deals, you must be willing to fly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, which are typically less busy for airlines.

Now that you have a pretty good idea of when to look for airfare, why not take it one step further by shopping around for airports? This may help you save money. But as you'll see in the next section, it could end up costing you more, if you're not careful.