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You Don't Have to Pay Top Dollar on Expensive Airline Tickets: 3 Quick Tips to Save Money on Airfare

Now is one of the best times to get cheap tickets, especially ahead of summer flights.

Katie Teague Writer II
Katie is a writer covering all things how-to at CNET, with a focus on Social Security and notable events. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing in golf scrambles, practicing yoga and spending time on the lake.
Expertise Personal Finance: Social Security and taxes
Katie Teague
3 min read
a passenger airliner landing at an airport

A drop in aircraft production could result in expensive plane tickets this summer.

James Martin/CNET

Air travel could be getting more expensive soon. Following multiple safety incidents, including the door of an Alaska Airlines 737 Max detaching after takeoff, Boeing is expected to produce fewer new planes this year. As a result, airlines may have to cut back on the availability of flights, potentially including less-traveled routes or routes with multiple options per day.

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As a result, travelers could wind up paying higher prices for fewer flight options overall. If you're hoping to get away for the summer, consider booking your flight now to save money. Buying plane tickets in shoulder seasons like early spring is a smart money-saving tip regardless, but with the industry shaken up with more scrutiny on fleet safety, the tip is extra timely.

Here's what you need to know about getting plane tickets for less than the most costly ticket price. From the cheapest day to fly to our picks for the best travel credit cards, we'll give you the tips you need to help find affordable flights.

Read more: After 500 Flights, This Travel Expert Shares His Best Saving Secrets

Book your flights for the middle of the week

If you've been scheduling your flights to take off and land on the weekend, you're doing it all wrong. According to a recent Google study, flying during the middle of the week will get you the best deal. On those days, tickets are roughly 12% to 20% cheaper than flying on a weekend day.

For economy tickets, prices on Tuesday and Wednesday are generally 24% lower than peak prices, saving you roughly $85 per ticket, CNET's Sophia Fox-Sowell reports.

The most expensive day to fly? Sunday. Avoid scheduling flights for this day if you want to save money.

Book one-way flights instead of round trips -- with a twist

Booking one-way flights may not be as convenient as round-trip tickets, but it gives you more options to choose from. You can book through different airlines for the best prices on the days you plan on flying. For instance, Delta may be cheaper flying to your destination, but American may be cheaper coming back.

"There have been many cases where booking two one-way flights with two different airlines is less expensive than booking a round trip with a single airline," according to The Points Guy, a sister site of CNET.

Also, you can use frequent flyer miles and travel rewards points from credit cards to save even more money.

Lean into a budget airline

If you're looking to save a little bit more money when flying, consider booking through a budget airline. They're generally cheaper than larger airlines like United and Delta and can save you several hundred dollars.

However, you'll likely have to pay additional fees for carry-on bags and other amenities that are generally free through other airlines. You'll also be assigned a random seat unless you pay to choose your seat, which can be inconvenient if you're flying with a group and you want to sit together. You'll need to make sure you're adding up individual costs and taxes to make sure you're actually saving money. 

That said, for the right trip and the right traveler, packing your own water and snacks and going lighter on clothing and amenities could save you hundreds if you're willing to shave off certain creature comforts. Short-haul flights and casual weekend getaways are especially suited to budget airline operators.

Here's a list of the budget airlines in the US:

For more travel tips, learn whether travel insurance is worth the cost and expert tips for picking and packing carry-on luggage.

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