Planes

Once you have a basic plan, everything else is about logistics — plane tickets, transport, places to stay. Flying is the one thing you must book in advance. My view on flying is similar to my view on accommodations: The less money I spend on airfare, the more I have to spend on the ground.

The online sites are useful for booking flights and hotels, although it can take some work. My plan is to shop for flights about one month ahead. Booking flights too far in advance actually can be more expensive, and it locks you into a time frame that might not work out. I compare the weekend fares with the weekday rates, which usually are less expensive, but not always. I prefer to leave and return on a weekend because I can tack three weekends onto my two weeks off, or allow myself a buffer day after the trip before I go back to work. But if the airfare is substantially more expensive on the weekend, I’ll fly on the weekday.

In considering flights, check the fares for one month in advance as well as what the rates would be if you were leaving in two or three weeks. That gives an idea of whether the price may change and if there may be new deals for waiting. That said, airline prices are like the stock market — constantly rising and falling — making them hard to predict. Sites like Kayak let you compare fares from multiple services, as well as the airlines, and you can set up email alerts to notify you when prices change. Kayak’s alerts even show the likelihood of a price increase or decrease.

Typically, I book the flight about three weeks ahead.But price isn’t the only consideration. Balance price with flight time and convenience. There is always a cheap flight with a ten-hour layover en route. That’s no good, especially coming home. I want the shortest flight possible, with the fewest stops and plane changes, within my price range. I’d rather not fly overnight on the way there, but that’s unavoidable going to Europe. I’m okay with flying back overnight because it may get me home sooner and I don’t have to spend an extra night just waiting to go to the airport. The best time to arrive, though, is the evening, so I can go to sleep and get a fresh start in the morning.

Typically, I book the flight about three weeks ahead, but I’ll do it sooner if there’s a great flight at a reasonable price or if a good price is likely to go up. One last thing when comparing airfares: Make sure the prices include all fees and taxes, or that cheap flight could become a lot more expensive.

What’s the ideal time to buy plane tickets? Read this Mashable article to find out.

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