Airfare Expert: Four magically cheap dates to fly

by Rick Seaney
Special for USA TODAY

If you must fly in the peak of the summer, you might as well quit reading now – the rest of this column just disappeared. If you’re still with me, let’s see if we can pull a few rabbits out of the hat as you plan your next year of travel.

Are certain dates during the year cheaper to fly?

Absolutely – my airfare analysis reveals the following “magical” dates:

Nov. 22 – Thanksgiving

Most of us are acutely aware that Thanksgiving fares can carve a big gash out of your budget – unless you travel on the day the turkey is the one under the blade.

Thanksgiving Day is a relative deal; it’s the same price as the Thursday after Thanksgiving – which recently was priced at 40 percent off, thanks to a sale from Southwest.

Tip: Avoid the Wednesday before and the Sunday and Monday after Thanksgiving unless you’re prepared to – let’s keep the metaphor going – apply a tourniquet.

Dec. 18 – Last day before airlines’ Christmas season

The Advent calendar may start three weeks earlier (the chocolate version of which seems to vanish pretty quickly at our house), but airlines begin their Christmas season on the 19th by charging an additional 30 percent or more for the following two weeks.

Tip: Airlines offer a bit of a price break for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day departures.

March 20 –

European vacation

The first day of spring – yes, it’s on the 20th next year – is a charmed date as departures to Europe go up in price by 20 percent or more starting March 21.

By the way, the first day of spring in 2013 is a Wednesday, which adds its own mystique because weekday departures bring an additional savings of $30 each way compared with takeoffs on Friday through Sunday.

Tip: No, it won’t be too cold; look for crisp afternoons in the 50s in Paris.

June 3 – Tokyo

This is the last day to fly to Tokyo from the West Coast on the biggest airplane in the world (the A380) on one of the world’s best airlines (Singapore) for just $852 round trip – and yes that does include everything. A good trick, given that tickets on United and Delta on that route cost twice that amount.

Tip: Buy a cheap ticket to the coast and hang out a day to prepare for a flying experience that I trust you’ll find magical.

FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney is an airline industry insider and top media air travel resource. © 2012 USA TODAY. All rights reserved.

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