The art of landing a great airfare
Planning to buy a plane ticket? Gerri Willis offers some pointers on how to find those really sweet deals.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- It's never too early to think about a spring get-away or start planning your summer vacation. Last year was the pits for air travelers, from lost luggage to long delays. But we'll tell you what you can expect this year and how you can get ready.
1: Prepare for fares
Here's some news we can all use. Prices on domestic flights may be a bit lower this season, especially on major routes, according to Anne Banas of SmarterTravel.com.
Delta and Northwest will be exiting bankruptcy this year and most low-cost carriers will be updating their equipment and adding seats. Now the bad news: fares to Europe will be about 20 percent higher during the peak summer travel time. Demand is expected to be very high, according to Banas.
Add this to the weak dollar abroad - and Europe looks like a very expensive bet this season.
2: Get in now
Ideally you should book your flight eight weeks out, according to SmarterTravel.com. You could pay double or even triple the fare if you wait, says Tom Parsons of Bestfares.com. If you see a good sale, jump on it. Fewer airlines are granting you vouchers if the flight goes on sale after you bought it.
If you're looking to travel overseas, you're going to find some great deals in March. United and Lufthansa have early bird specials. And we're going to see more in the next couple of weeks, according to Terry Trippler of Cheapseats.com.
3: Book on Tuesday
Getting the best deal can sometimes feel like taking a shot in the dark. But the best time to buy is Tuesday evening from about 4 p.m. until midnight. That's when the airlines start to match sales and the price settles down from the weekend.
If you really want to snag a last minute deal for travel within a week or two, you'll find them on Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. That's when the airlines aggressively try to fill seats.
4: Where to look
Expect to find good deals on flights to the Caribbean and Mexico throughout the year, says Trippler. That's because of the new rules that require passports to enter the U.S. from these countries. That's good news for you beach bums.
Smarter Travel highlights Costa Rica and Germany as hot spots this spring too. These places generally have better weather, fewer crowds and lower prices this season. If you want to travel domestically, Smartertravel.com cites San Diego and Seattle as bargain destinations this spring.