Travelers who can wait until early fall can score some serious airfare savings

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Google Flights Explore is one option to consider

If you can hold off on your travel plans until early fall's “shoulder season,” a new report suggests there are airfare deals to be found for this time — deals much better than the current domestic prices, which are running 18% higher than pre-pandemic levels.

The report from Hopper – an app that uses algorithms to make travel recommendations – says this is the first drop in prices for 2022. Hopper said its app showed $69 round-trip to Phoenix, $71 to San Francisco, and $97 to Denver, for instance. 

How travelers can score airfare deals despite higher prices

It takes a bit of gamesmanship and using the calendar to your advantage, but Hopper’s research says travelers who can shift trips to the last two weeks in August can save an estimated $120 per ticket if they apply these principles:

Be flexible on dates. By departing on a Wednesday instead of a Friday, travelers should be able to save somewhere in the neighborhood of $35 per ticket. This also applies to hotel rooms; Hopper says travelers can save an average of 14% ($60) on a two-night stay just by checking into a hotel on a Thursday versus a Friday or Saturday night.

Look for new routes and airlines entering your local airport. “When an airline adds a new route, it amps up competition, which tends to bring prices down,” a Hopper spokesperson told ConsumerAffairs. "Airlines also may offer promotions for the first few weeks or months after entering a new market, so savvy travelers can find great deals on newer routes.”

Two examples come from Avelo Airlines and Breeze Airways. Tickets on Avelo’s newest routes — like Baltimore to Orlando and Burbank to Denver — reportedly start at $29 each way. And Breeze recently announced new nonstop flights from Louisville to San Francisco at bargain prices. The only kink is that these airlines don’t fly every day like the larger ones do, so some added calendar flexibility is required to get the bargains.

Want to fly overseas?

For travelers interested in flying overseas, Willis Orlando at Scott’s Cheap Flights told ConsumerAffairs that when it comes to Europe in particular, many routes to popular destinations can be found at prices of $500 round-trip (or below if you’re willing to travel in late August or after) — less than half of what it’ll cost you to fly this summer. 

Orlando shared these international deals travelers can nab if they play their cards and calendar right:

Los Angeles to Barcelona nonstop (66% savings or $973 off):

  • July 6 to 13: $1,460

  • October 6 to 13: $487

Washington DC to Athens (54% savings or $625 off):

  • July 21 to 29: $1,161 roundtrip

  • September 21 to 29: $536 roundtrip

Chicago to Cancun (60% savings or $350 off):

  • July 21 to 29: $583 roundtrip

  • September 21 to 29: $233 roundtrip

“Just get me out of town – anywhere that’s cheap!”

Travelers who aren’t picky about where they’re going as long as it’s cheap have an option they may not be aware of – Google Flights Explore. It's a separate feature of Google Flights where consumers put in their departure airport, leave the destination open, choose a broad date range (like a one-week trip in the next six months), and let the search engine do its thing.

When ConsumerAffairs gave it a test run for flights going anywhere out of Dallas, we found $120 roundtrip fares to New York City and $522 roundtrip to Athens, Greece. That Dallas-Athens fare is particularly attractive given airfare for those locations might otherwise run more than $1,700, depending on the specific date and time.

Again, to get these fares, travelers have to be flexible in terms of their dates — and even the number of stops the plane makes.

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