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Rick Seaney on Today Show: How to Save on Summer Airfare

Rick Seaney Today Show Summer Airfare Prices

Did you happen to catch me on the Today Show?

If not, take a look at the video below. The report focuses on Memorial Day travel, but check it out because it also tells you a lot about what to expect for summer airline ticket prices. Yours truly notes note that summer airfare has already risen from $30 to $60 on average from the summer of 2010.

What you can do to save on summer travel: Find out the best day to shop for airfare and the cheapest days to fly, and also sign up for FareCompare Airfare Alerts, and we’ll let you know in real-time when prices on the trip you want to take come down.

Now here’s the video; if you have a moment, please let me know what you think on Facebook.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Fly and Drive: Save on Airfare to Yosemite, Other National Parks

Fly and Drive to Save on Airfare

The Airfare Expert: I don’t know if you saw my latest Airfare Expert column for USA Today on saving money with “fly & drive” combination trips; if not, here’s the condensed version.

I focus on Yosemite, but I think it could prove useful for travels to a lot of America’s national parks some of which can be a bit hard to get to (certainly by nonstop air service). Of course, the very isolation of some of these parks is a big part of why we want to get to them!

So here goes – and if you have any ideas or comments, let’s chat on Facebook.

Is it possible to fly & drive to Yosemite and save money?

Yes, and in this case, the more you’re willing to drive, the more you may be able to save. Here are some options:

Fly into Fresno: This is the nearest airport to Yosemite served by multiple airlines (though dominated by United); luckily, the Fresno facility is just about 90 miles away from the park, and out West, that’s no big deal. Bonus for travlers: easy in-and-out of the airport (and security) thanks to few crowds, plus no long haul to pick up the rental car.

Fly into San Francisco or Fly into Oakland: These bigger airports are dominated by United (SFO) and Southwest (OAK), and while flying to San Francisco or Oakland will increase the driving distance of your Yosemite (total drive time, maybe 3-4 hours or so), it could be more cost effective if you’re traveling as a group.

Tell me the best tips for cheap flights no matter where I fly.

Just follow these two favorite maxims of mine:

  1. Shop on Tuesday at 3pm Eastern; this is cheapest day (and time of day) to shop for airfare.
  2. Fly on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday; most often, the cheapest days to fly. Avoid Fridays and Sundays unless there’s a special fare – usually those are the most expensive days to fly.  

Any tips for the “drive” part of the trip?

Remember that parks like Yosemite and Yellowstone are in the high country, and snow in June and August are not unheard of. Check with the National Park Service for road closure information.

Gas Pump Prices and the Cost of Your Airline Ticket

Gas Pump Prices and Cost of Airfare

If you haven’t seen my latest “Airfare Expert” column in USA Today, I’ll give you the brief version now (but do take a look at the column if possible, for the unique graphics).

Why does airfare cost so much these days?

Airfare costs are route specific and fluctuate according to numerous factors like competition or lack of same (think of mergers, like the recent Southwest/AirTran deal), and the rising cost of oil.

Jet fuel remains the top expense for airlines today; it’s risen from about 20% of a carrier’s expenses to close to 40%.

However, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to learn of plans for several start-up airlines which are in abeyance until the price of jet fuel drops, possibly until oil comes down the about $70 per barrel (which sure would be nice).

What does airline seating capacity have to do with higher prices?

In recent years, airlines cut capacity dramatically, which is why it’s so rare to find an empty seat next to you. And of course, fewer empty seats helps keep prices up – supply and demand.

How frequently do airlines raise their airfare?

So far this year there have been 12 attempts at raising airfare prices, and seven of those attempts were successful. You can be sure they’ll try again. And again.

Sounds like pretty soon, only the wealthy will be able to afford to fly, right?

Not a chance; the airlines have to keep their planes full to make any money (or to avoid losing money), and when they can’t fill their planes, the discounts will come. In the meantime, smart shopper must sign up for FareCompare Airfare Alerts - to be among the first to know when deals are available.

Traveling to Europe in 2011 – Finding Cheap Flights

USA Today Column Travel to Europe Cheap Flights

Hope you had a chance to see my latest airfare column at USAToday.com. My topic: how to find cheap flights to Europe.

Let me give you the condensed version here:

Will prices to Europe be higher this summer?

Yes. In the summer of 2009, you could find flights to Ireland for well under $500 roundtrip total; this summer, that’s your starting point – and by that I mean you’ll pay about $500 just in taxes, fees and surcharges – before you add in the actual airfare.

Will a nonstop flight cost more?

In most case, expect to pay a premium of from $150 to $350 for a nonstop; avoid those if you want to save.

Does it matter what day of the week I travel to Europe?

It does. Most of the airlines to Europe file two different price points: one for travel on the so-called “midweek days” which are Monday through Wednesday, and another for travel on what the “weekend days” (Thursday through Sunday). If avoid travel on “weekends”, you’ll save about 40 bucks each way.

What about a Saturday night “stay-over”?

Many of the cheapest European fares do require a Saturday night stay; if you don’t follow this rule, you could wind up paying hundreds of dollars more.

What can you tell me about Europe’s seasons?

I can tell you that the best time to fly to Europe depends on the season; some are cheaper than others:

  • Cheapest: Winter 

Begins mid to late November — Ends mid to late March

  • Less Cheap: Fall 

Begins mid to late August — Ends mid to late November

  • More Expensive: Spring 

Begins mid to late March Ends late May/first week of June

  • Most Expensive: Summer 

Please see my complete column for more money-saving tips on Europe travel.

Airfare Expert: Save on Las Vegas Flights

Airfare Expert USA Today Cheap Flights to Las Vegas

Cheap Flights to Vegas

If you haven’t seen my latest “Airfare Expert” column in USA Today, I’ll give you a short version here, but do check it out; I think you’ll enjoy the behind-the-scenes insider info on airfares.

1. Are airfares to Las Vegas rising? 

Yes, they are and you can blame rising fuel prices. Look for summer airfare to be about 10% higher than last year.

Want to save on flights to Vegas? See this FareCompare exclusive: Cheap Flights to Las Vegas: Air Travel Cheat Sheet

2. What airlines are best for Vegas? 

Discount airline Allegiant is big in Vegas from a number of smaller towns, and Spirit has increased the number of its daily seats to Sin City by almost 240%. Warning: if you don’t pack carefully, you could get stung by the discount carriers’ relatively high baggage fees.

3. When to buy flights to Las Vegas? 

Book your airline tickets for June travel now, but wait a few more weeks if you’re planning to fly in July (especially the latter part of the month). As always, the cheapest day to shop for airfare to Vegas – or any U.S. domestic city – is Tuesday at about 3pm eastern time. Also note: the cheapest days to fly are Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.

Cheap Flights to Orlando: When and How to Find Airline Tickets

Cheap Flights to Orlando

My latest airfare column for USA Today is about finding deals to Orlando. If you haven’t seen it, here’s a down-and-dirty version, but please see Airfare Expert: Scoring a cheap ticket to Orlando for all the behind-the-scenes details (plus some fascinating charts).

Which airline to fly to Orlando? 

Chances are good you’ll fly a low-cost airline to Orlando. Southwest alone controls about 25% of all seats to Orlando and together, Southwest, AirTran and JetBlue fly half of all the seats.

When to buy tickets to Orlando?

Quick answer: buy as soon as possible, but not too early. If you buy more than three months before departure you may pay more.

Shop for cheap flights to Orlando on Tuesdays  

Tuesday is the best time to start shopping, specifically Tuesday at 3 pm Eastern. We know this because an airline typically launches a sale on Monday evening, and by the following afternoon, other airlines have matched the discounts to stay competitive. Note: these airfare sales typically last three days, meaning your optimal shopping window is Tuesday to Thursday. If you shop on the weekend, you will probably pay more.

Cheapest days and times to fly to Orlando?

Many of the lowest fares to Orlando are restricted to departures on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, which are typically the cheapest days to fly to any U.S. destination. If this doesn’t work for your schedule, try to fly on at least one of these days, so you reap a partial cost benefit.

Don’t forget the baggage fees

Figure on $50 per person per checked-bag unless you fly the “free bag” airlines: JetBlue and Southwest. Personally, I always use a carryon.

Try this, too: sign up for FareCompare Airfare Alerts, and we’ll let you know when prices drop on flights to Orlando – or anywhere you want to go.

FareCompare: “Turning the Planet into a Wealth of Destinations”

FareCompare Planet Wealth of Destinations

Just noticed a nice little write up on FareCompare from my folks at the CBS affiliate in Philadelphia (hat tip to reporter Daniel Sieberg of KYW NewsRadio).

Here’s the glowing review of FareCompare:

“Not only does it look at the best deal on a particular date, it also turns the planet into a wealth of potential destination spots. There’s an app component that can alert you when a great deal pops up and help you book your future getaway. Just be sure to have your passport handy while visiting the site.”

How can you have such “wealth” at your fingertips?

  • Destination Tip #1: If you want to see a wealth of destinations, take a look at the FareCompare Getaway Map. It’s a great way to help you figure out where you’d like to go for your next destination.
  • Destination Tip #2: Use our technology to get deals from your airport via Twitter – just http://www.farecompare.com/when-to-fly/twitter/, and we tweet great deals – in real time – directly to you.

These tips really work: a whole bunch of people recently learned via FareCompare tweets about terrific airfare deals from their home airports to Hawaii – you don’t want to miss out on that, do you? I didn’t think so.

Finding Deals to Hawaii

Finding Deals to Hawaii

Just in case you missed my latest column for USA Today on finding deals to Hawaii, I thought I’d give you the short-but-sweet version here:

When to fly to Hawaii? 

Look for discounted fares in the spring and fall. I’m sorry to say you probably won’t see many deals on summer airfare this year, but sign up for the FareCompare Airfare Alerts so that if there are good deals, you’ll hear about them first.

What are airfares like? 

Think of flights to Hawaii in terms of distance: if you look at it that way, the airfare compares very favorably to Europe. Prices to Hawaii also look good next to many Caribbean destinations.  

When to shop and buy airfare for Hawaii? 

First, start early to get a feel for prices – but be flexible enough to be able to grab a sale when one comes along. It’s highly unlikely we’ll see last minute sales (but in case we do, you’ve already signed up for airfare alerts, right?) but you can sometimes pick up award seats at the last minute even if you tried redeeming those miles 11 months ago with no luck. When you’re ready, the best time to buy is Tuesday at 3pm eastern time.

What else to know about flying to Hawaii? 

The California Connection: There are about 500,000 airline seats flown to Hawaii each month from the mainland, with nearly half of them originating in two cities — Los Angeles and San Francisco. For those keeping score, there are only 20 mainland cities total with nonstop flights to the islands. No nonstops from your neck of the woods? Look for cheap flights to LAX or SFO. And yes, you’d be smart to sign up for airfare alerts to those cities, too.

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