Fly (nearly) naked, and other summer savings strategies

A few years ago, a German charter company had a bright idea: flights for nudists. It never got off the ground, possibly due to turbulence (imagine a bumpy beverage service and the shrieks as hot coffee goes flying).

Nevertheless, it may be time to rethink this to save on summer travel. Here are six often-overlooked ways to lower your vacation airfare tab.

1. Fly (nearly) naked. Wear something, but pack next to nothing. Spirit Airlines, the discount carrier that charges for checked-bags and carry-ons alike endorses this idea. They allow one small 'personal item' for free (it must fit under the seat in front of you) and show you how to pack this item in a couple of new faux-racy videos. If you don't get too distracted watching Jack and Theresa strip down to their undies, you can learn a thing or two about saving, and this is a big deal since Spirit's carry-on fee alone ranges from $35 to a staggering $100 each-way.

2. Don't hoard miles for 'someday'. If you don't fly a lot, it's tougher to amass enough miles for a free flight. It's also tougher to get the flights you want when you want them, plus miles expire earlier than they used to. Suggestion: If your airline program allows it, use those potentially useless miles as partial payment for your summer fare. But even if it is an option, you still must compare your carrier's price with other airlines because you might find something cheaper.

3. Don't follow the herd. Everyone wants to fly Fridays and Sundays, but the cheapest days are usually Tuesdays, Wednesday, and Saturday, the very days more and more airlines offer the cheapest seats. The pricing folks at some airlines even use the term "XFS," which means sales excluding Fridays and Sundays. Even if you can't fly cheaper days on both legs of a trip, do so on half and you'll still reap some financial benefit.

4. Delay gratification. American, Delta and Southwest recent sales all say the same thing: "Good for travel starting Aug. 25." If you can wait, you will save serious money.

5. Don't delay booking. Last-minute domestic ticket prices will be high, but there is some wiggle room: It may be possible to avoid the $1,000 round-trip business traveler fare for something under $500, but the catch is that you'll probably forfeit nonstop flights, and may face a numbingly circuitous routing.

6. Make the deals find you. If you missed the Frontier and JetBlue sales from earlier this month, you missed out on some eye-popping summer fares of just $39 one-way. The thing is, sale seats are few in number and don't last long. Be proactive, sign up for airfare alerts so when something amazing comes along, you won't be in the dark.


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