THE HELP DESK The Help Desk: Top Tips

Cheapo airfare

Gerri Willis gives tips on how to land the cheapest price for your airline ticket.

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By Gerri Willis, CNN personal finance editor

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For more information on managing your largest investment, check out Gerri Willis' 'Home Rich,' now in bookstores.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Looking for some good news in this dismal economy? Well, how about dirt-cheap airfare?

The airlines are desperate for travelers. And YOU are benefiting. If you make comparisons to this time last year when oil was at $130 a barrel, ticket prices on the whole are down 30 - 40% according to Farecompare.com. And if you're going to destinations in Europe, you're saving 45%.

So - what deals are to be had?

Here's a list of some of the most discounted destinations in the U.S. These prices are from Farecompare.com and it's for upcoming travel on various airlines. All rates are roundtrip.

  • A ticket from Charlotte to San Francisco costs $218 - that's down 44% from a year ago.
  • A ticket from Phoenix to Orlando we found was $160 down 42% from last year.
  • A ticket from Hartford to Las Vegas $180, down 37%.
  • A ticket from Ft. Lauderdale to Chicago $139, down 32%.

And here are some of the most discounted international cities from Farecompare.com. Again, this is for future travel with roundtrip rates on various airlines.

  • A ticket from Washington, D.C. to Moscow is down 54% from last year.
  • A ticket from Chicago to Dublin, one ticket we found is down 59% from last year.
  • A ticket from Boston to Milan down 54%.
  • A ticket from Los Angeles to Sydney down 53%.

Now, while ticket prices have gone down ... airline fees aren't going anywhere. These fees rake in too much money for the airlines.

We used to say, if you want to travel for the summer book now. But that's not true this year.

The best fares out there right now are for April and May travel. If you want to get a great summer fare, start shopping in about two weeks because fares are expected to fall.

Bottom line here: if you are paying over $300 for a domestic ticket this year, you are paying too much. You can get coast-to-coast flights for $199.

Now, as for strategy, the cheapest days to fly are Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. And the best time to shop for your ticket is Tuesday after lunch. That's because most airline sales come out on Monday and airlines try to match those prices on Monday evening and Tuesday morning.  To top of page

Gerri's Mailbox: Got questions about your money? We want to hear them! Send an e-mail,we'll answer questions on CNN, Headline News and CNNMoney.com.
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