Take a look at more than just fares. With fees for everything from picking a seat to checking a bag, it's not a good idea to look just at fares. Compare fees among airlines with the cheapest fares for a fuller picture of the total cost.
Do your airline ticket shopping on Tuesday. FareCompare.com says the maximum number of cheap seats for a given domestic route are on the market at 3 p.m. Eastern on Tuesdays. Available sale seats dwindle until Thursday night, when airlines end sales still in the system. Buying during that window of opportunity can yield savings of 10% to 40%.
Pay attention to coupon codes. When the U.S. won its third game in the World Cup, Lufthansa offered each of its email list subscribers a single-use code good for an $80 discount on travel through the end of the year. Airlines have been offering more exclusive codes and discounts like that, but you have to be on the email lists to take advantage.
Shop for tickets earlier than later. Airlines are capricious when it comes to last-minute deals. Sometimes there's a fare sale, but more often than not the deals disappear. For inflexible travel plans, book at least 14 days in advance, but ideally closer to three months out.
Price compare for one passenger before comparing multiple tickets at one time. Travelers searching for more passengers than there are cheap seats will be charged the higher rate for all. Start your fare search by checking prices for one passenger, and then see how those rates change for the full party. Split the reservations to get however many of the cheaper fares are available.
Kelli Grant & Erika Wortham