The Best Time to Get Travel Deals

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Tuesday afternoon is generally the best time to purchase airline tickets.
Tuesday afternoon is generally the best time to purchase airline tickets. (Image: Thinkstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

The best time to get travel deals is when fewer people are traveling, but this is defined differently for each location. In addition, searching for the lowest airfare is an ongoing game in which prices change constantly. Research your destination and compare prices over time to get the best deals for your trip.

Airfare Considerations

Low fare aggregators FareCompare.com and CheapAir.com regularly perform studies to determine the optimal times to fly, as well as to purchase tickets. Both sites agree that Wednesday is an optimal travel day -- FareCompare.com found that Wednesday is the best, while CheapAir.com notes that Tuesday is often just as cheap. Both point out that Friday and Sunday are the most expensive. Which day you make your purchase also matters, with Tuesday afternoon coming out as the best choice. Other ways to save include booking one-way trips on multiple airlines, making your purchase three weeks to four months in advance, and being flexible with your exact dates. Of course, traveling during peak travel times such as holiday weekends also means paying premium prices.

Off Season Travel

CNN.com points out that travel is governed by the laws of supply and demand. In general, fewer people are interested in a destination when the weather is less than perfect, businesses are open shorter hours, and the kids are in school. If you have the flexibility to travel during the off season, you can rack up sizable discounts. Other benefits include smaller crowds, shorter lines and a better chance for meaningful personal interactions. For the best deals, travel to warm weather destinations during the summer, cold weather locales in the winter and anywhere on Earth during the rainy season.

Theme Park Discounts

Like any other destination, Walt Disney World and other major theme parks experience fluctuations in attendance that translate into lower pricing. For example, the absolute best time of the year to visit Walt Disney World is during the two weeks that begin the Monday after Thanksgiving. The holiday decorations and special performances are in full swing, but the weather is pleasant and the crowds are virtually nonexistent. Disneyland is more driven by local attendance, so be sure to check Southern California school calendars for holidays before making definite plans.

Cruise Considerations

Cruising is divided into three seasons: high or peak, shoulder and low. Due to the nature of cruise travel, ships simply cannot sail in extreme weather conditions, so some markets, such as Alaska, are only available at certain times of year. The cruise market is traditionally weather-driven, but CruiseCritic.com notes that as more families take to the high seas, summer has become a peak season for virtually all destinations. Although hurricane season runs from June through November, it typically peaks in September and October, after the summer cruise season. Look for great deals on cruises to hurricane-prone destinations during this time frame. In cold weather destinations, the first and last weeks of the cruise season bring the chance of cold rain or even snow, but prices are significantly lower than average. If your schedule is extremely flexible, cruise lines often provide fantastic deals on last-minute cruises, especially during the last two weeks before sailing. Note, however, that security protocols require ships to submit a final passenger manifest 72 hours before departure. It is not possible to book a same-day cruise at the port.

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