Airfare Expert: The cheapest time of year to fly
Rick Seaney , Special for USA TODAY7 a.m. EST November 12, 2013
There are two big dead zones coming up that travelers to U.S. destinations should know about, periods when airfare drops because most people don’t want to fly then:
• Dead zone #1: The first couple weeks in Dec.
• Dead zone #2: Last three weeks in Jan. and early Feb.
Caution: Do not include the first few days of Dec. in dead zone #1. Thanksgiving is late this year (Nov. 28), and those early Dec. dates are part of the expensive wave of Thanksgiving return flights. As for the second dead zone, don’t go too deep into Feb. either since then you run the risk of hitting Presidents’ Day weekend, another notoriously expensive period for airfares, and the most popular week at many ski resorts. Fly before Valentine’s Day and you should be fine.
Europe has dead zones too, but you may recognize it by another term: Winter. The bargains generally end in late March, followed by another price jump in mid-May. If you can fly before that, you’ll see some of the best prices of the year. A quick search of our site for the Jan. dead zone showed multiple airlines offering round-trip flights between New York and Dublin for under $600. That’s actually only about $100 each-way – for the fare alone. The fuel surcharges and taxes on trans-Atlantic flights now account for as much as 60% of the total ticket cost.
When to shop: If you’re looking for U.S. flights in the Dec. dead zone, the time to shop is now. You can be a bit more leisurely for Jan./Feb. flights or Europe trips, but don’t wait to shop more than a couple of weeks.