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What's the Deal?: What You Need to Know About Summer Airfares

Carol Sottili

Farecast, a Web site that analyzes airfare trends and offers predictions and pricing, has issued its summer forecast, concluding (no surprise here) that summer fares to Europe are 10 percent higher this year. But the analysis also concludes that there are ways around paying sky-high fares, as long as you're flexible.

The conclusions:

* Peak season to Europe costs on average 250 percent of the off-season averages. Traveling in May or September (shoulder seasons) can save $350 or more per ticket.

* The most expensive day of the week to fly is Saturday, while the least expensive are Tuesday and Wednesday.

* Based on 2007 patterns, if you have to travel in July or August, it may pay to wait until a month or two before departure or to hold out until mid-summer sales. The strategy worked well for travel to London in 2007, but was riskier for other destinations, including Paris and Rome. If you're traveling in late August or September, wait until the end July to buy: That's when sales to Europe were announced last year. Our added thought: Sales don't seem to be as common this year, so this may be a dicey strategy, especially if your dates and destination are not flexible.

The Farecast "Fareologists" (as they refer to themselves) have these added tips based on their study (we generally like the way they think).

* Buy summer airfares at least three months before you depart, or wait for sales that pop up a month or two before departure.

* It may pay to fly to London or Madrid as a starting point, rather than Paris or Rome. Our added thought: Even if you can save a couple of hundred by doing this, you may have to endure changing airports or lengthy connections in order to grab a discount carrier to your final destination. In other words, it may not be worth the trouble.

* Late August, early September travel is a fare "sweet spot." Airlines traditionally launch big end-of-summer sales in early to mid-July. Again, we're not so sure that will happen this year, but we'd still take Europe in early September over Europe in July or August.

Anyone have their own tips for saving money on airfares?

If you want a peek at this week's best deals, check out the Travel page later this afternoon when the What's the Deal? column is posted.

By Carol Sottili |  March 21, 2008; 10:32 AM ET  | Category:  Air Travel , Carol Sottili , Deals
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I've developed a fondness for vacations in February, in part because everything's so darn cheap.

Posted by: h3 | March 21, 2008 10:50 AM

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