I've been writing about airfare savings strategies for close to a decade now and am often asked, "what's your favorite tip?" It's hard to choose, but this one is right up there in the top three:
The cheapest days to fly are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays: This is a somewhat rigid rule, but while there is a little give, there are firm structural reasons why it works.
Why these days are cheapest: Most of us don't want to fly on Tuesdays, Wednesday or Saturdays, so airlines discount prices hoping the cheaper fares will get you to take that trip you were on the fence about, in order to fill up their (increasingly rare) empty middle seats.
What days should be avoided: Fridays and Sundays, because they are the most popular days to fly. Airlines can charge whatever the market will bear because they know these two groups of travelers will pay the higher prices.
• Business fliers: The road warrior typically departs on Sunday or Monday and returns home Thursday or Friday. They also buy expensive, last-minute tickets on the boss' dime. The airlines love them.
• Vacation fliers: Most folks want to squeeze every last minute out of their hard-earned time off so they depart Friday for weekend getaways and often return from week-long trips late on Sunday - even though it costs more. The airlines like them, too.
Cheapest days align with airline sales: Most Southwest airfare sales include this all-important disclaimer: "Good for travel any day except Friday or Sunday". Many JetBlue sales are even more restrictive, often good for flights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays only. Again, the airlines don't need to entice customers with low fares on the popular days, but they do on the others so airfare sales cater to travelers who are flexible.
How to save: If you can build a trip around the cheapest days to fly - Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday - you will see significant savings. Unfortunately most of us aren't quite that flexible but if you can fly even one of those days - in either direction - you'll still reap half the savings. Better than paying the considerably higher ticket price of two expensive travel days.