For those looking to make their summer vacation plans, many may be wondering where are the cheap flights, airfare deals, and vacation packages. Summer officially begins in a little over 2 months. Now is generally the time to book your travel.
Meanwhile, the economy and budget crisis continue to make the headlines. The price of oil remains high and gas prices are punishing people at the pump. And a check of weekly airline deals doesn’t bring many options for summer.
Good deals, no deals, and bad news
It’s not that there aren’t any deals. This week is National Parks Week with free admission to national parks. There are some cheap flights to countries like Portugal. Spain, and Ireland. A number of airlines have cheap flights to Europe. And AirTran and Frontier are two of the first airlines to offer cheap flights for summer travel (the major airlines may soon follow).
However, the news isn’t all good. Southwest has offered airfare sales through June 7 for a month now – not a single airfare has gone on sale for summer. Delta just raised airfares by $10 because of rising fuel costs. The costs of airfare are up over this time last year.
What about general travel concerns? Well there are the TSA body scanners (although Matt over at LandLopers recaps some interesting news stories in travel including an attempt at new traveler screening procedures for frequent fliers). A woman is raped in the airport in Denver. Planes are making emergency landings and having close calls with other planes. Air traffic controllers are falling asleep on the job. Airlines are still fighting with online booking sites. And some planes are falling apart in mid-air (Don’t we just love when the media shares the news that scares the public?).
For those who enjoy cruises, recent turmoil in the Middle East and natural disasters in Japan have forced some cruises to cancel. While I am not a fan of cruises, there are some cruise deals out there. And for family travelers, staying close to home this year may be your cheapest option so look for deals close to home.
So if you are looking for cheap flights for summer, what should you do?
Tips for finding summer airfare deals
While it is a difficult year to find bargains for travel, there is still some hope. My 6 tips for finding the cheapest flights can help you any time of year. However, this year it will take some extra tips and thinking outside of the box to find those travel deals.
- Budget airlines - More than ever, budget airlines will offer the best deals. The major airlines may soon follow but budget airlines are going to drive the airfare sales for summer as AirTran and Frontier have done.
- Watch the stock market - The price of oil is going to be huge for airfares. If you are traveling later in the summer, watch the price of oil. If it drops, it could mean lower airfares.
- Fly and drive - or boat, bike, ferry, hang glide, hitchhike, take the train, or whatever other option gets you to your destination. Find the cheapest flight to a city close to your destination and use another transportation method to get there and save money (check out this example – budget travel options from Seattle to Vancouver)
- Airfare alerts - If you are wanting to fly to a specific destination, use a sight like farecompare.com to get alerts or a price predictor site like Bing Travel to know when to buy.
- Vacation packages - Many airlines partner with their vacation sites (i.e. United Vacations, Delta Vacations, etc) to put together packages for flights, hotels, and/or cars that cost less than booking these separately. Many airlines have partnerships with car rental companies and hotels that discount the price of some vacations (see how vacation packages can save you money).
- Talk to a travel agent - Believe it or not, they still exist. And now more than ever, they know how to find good deals that you may not be able to find online.
- Be patient - If you are willing to take the risks, most airlines offer last minute getaways for this weekend or next weekend for both domestic and international getaways. If you want to go on vacation but don’t need to make plans in advance, this may bring some good deals.
Planning a vacation this summer is going to be more difficult and expensive. Travel discounts and deals aren’t impossible but the current state of airlines and the economy doesn’t make it easy. Summer vacations will go on – just do your research and be patient.