8 Clever Ways to Combat Rising Airline Ticket Prices

Your next plane trip doesn’t have to break the bank.
Updated Oct. 30, 2023
Airline tickets and documents on wooden background

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While the COVID-19 pandemic remains an issue that all of us grapple with on a daily basis, air travel is finally returning to normal. However, hopping online to purchase airline tickets can cause quite a shock due to their high prices.

Thanks to the cost of gas, staffing issues, and pilot shortages, it’s not cheap to travel by plane. That’s why we’re here to help you get the best deals on airline tickets.

Use a travel or airline credit card

Prostock-studio/Adobe making hotel reservation online

One easy way to save on airline tickets is to purchase them with the best travel credit cards, which give you points for each dollar you spend. The best airline credit cards offer similar rewards programs, allowing you to acquire miles that you can save up and redeem for discounted or even free flights.

Some credit cards will also offer free companion tickets. Just be sure that you don’t carry a balance on either type of credit card, as interest rates and annual fees can negate any benefits you rack up if you let debt build up without paying it off in a timely manner.

Plan your trip far in advance

kwanchaichaiudom/Adobe Young couple planning vacation trip with map

You may have heard that there are magical times when you can book a flight to snag the best possible price on airline tickets. For example, some conventional wisdom suggests booking four to six weeks in advance for optimal bargains. However, that might not always be the case, especially considering the fluctuating price of oil and general market uncertainty.

To that end, it’s best to book your flight as soon as you know you will be taking one. Travel experts suggest booking your summer trip in winter, and vice versa. Think of it like buying a bathing suit when it’s chilly or a parka when it’s beach weather.

Book on certain days and fly at unpopular times

sirirak/Adobe Empty departure gate at the airport in Thailand

You’d be hard-pressed to find a person who delights at getting up at 3 a.m. for an early flight, or boarding at 11 p.m. for a red-eye flight. However, the discomfort and exhaustion of traveling at the crack of dawn or the dead of night might translate into some serious savings for you.

Also, purchasing your airline tickets on certain days of the week, like Thursdays, and planning to depart on a Wednesday can chip away at the cost as well. Although the savings may not be huge, any savings helps. So yes, the days and times you both book and fly can spare your wallet.

Add a connecting flight

mario beauregard/Adobe Travel

Let’s face it, booking a direct flight is certainly the easiest and most hassle-free way to go about air travel. Your bag travels with you in one plane, you don’t have to run through the airport to catch a connection and delays will stress you out far less this way.

However, you’re likely to pay more for a direct route. If you want to save some cash, then book a connecting flight. You do run the risk of arriving at your connecting flight a sweaty mess, and will have to add extra time to your overall travel schedule, but you’re going to the same place in the end.

Book with a budget airline

scofieldza/Adobe Travel cost calculation concept

We’ve all heard the horror stories of flying on a budget airline, but take those with a grain of salt. The reason? These airlines have grown significantly in recent years, and have quadrupled in size since the last time oil prices were soaring into oblivion.

Additionally, more people are turning to budget airlines to book their flights, from a mere 4% of travelers in 2008 to 15% and growing today.

You do have to be mindful about hidden fees on budget airlines, including for carry-ons and such, but in the end you can wind up with serious savings.

Sign up for sites like Travelzoo

Jag_cz/Adobe Travel concept with airplane shadow and beach

If you have flexibility about when and where you want to travel, you can find some of the best airline tickets and travel packages around on sites like Travelzoo.

This company has an entire staff of experts who spend their time scouring the web to find the best deals on a wide variety of trips, from quick beach getaways in Mexico to bucket list trips like African safaris, eco getaways to the Galapagos Islands, and more.

All you need to do to access these deals is sign up with your email address, and each week you will get a list of their top 20 picks, with cheap airfare included in many of them.

Book with a site like Expedia

Gary L Hider/Adobe Expedia Holidays app open on screen

Another way you can save money on plane tickets is by booking your fight on sites like Expedia. For one, you can often (but not always) find cheaper flights on Expedia as opposed to booking them directly with a carrier. Additionally, if you’re willing to bundle your flight, hotel, and car rental, you’ll often find that doing so comes out cheaper than the sum of its parts.

Expedia also offers last-minute deals similar to Travelzoo if you’re up for a spontaneous adventure. Just be sure to comparison shop, and read the cancellation policies very carefully. Finally, Expedia also offers reward programs, but airline and credit card reward programs tend to be more lucrative.

Use a travel agency

sebra/Adobe Travel planning concept on table

This last bit of advice might sound like a relic from a time gone by, but booking with a travel agency can still save you money, even in the era of oodles of travel websites. For one reason, they have expertise that can be exceptionally valuable, especially if you are planning a complicated trip to a place you’ve never been, like South Asia or the Middle East (you don’t need one for a trip home for Thanksgiving, though).

Additionally, you often don’t have to pay extra to utilize an agent, as their compensation comes from the hotels and services they work with. Just inquire about fees up front, and prepare to save—and travel armed with the knowledge you need.

Bottom line

Nieuwland/Adobe Passenger plane is landing during a wonderful sunrise

While flying in general is more expensive lately, especially if you have to book at the last minute, it’s not impossible to score some savings. This is especially true if you do a little recognisance beforehand.

If possible, consider travel by train if you can reach your destination, as those fares can be far cheaper. You can see more of the country, too.

And if you end up traveling by car, make sure you know how to save money at the pump.

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Author Details

Cat Lafuente Cat Lafuente is a Florida-based writer and editor with extensive experience in digital and print content spaces. Her own personal finance journey — particularly consolidating debt and paying it off, in turn boosting her credit score and becoming a homeowner — inspired her to join the FinanceBuzz team; she hopes she can help others do the same.

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