Does summer airfare ever go on sale?

I've been planning our summer trip for several weeks now, and am at the point where I'm starting to worry about transportation. I have two thirds of our lodging booked, but have not booked transportation yet because I'm waiting for it to get cheaper. Please tell me if my thinking is faulty: My thinking--right now, I'm getting all kinds of updates for cheap fares to Europe...if i travel before March 30th. So I'm thinking if I wait a few months, I'll get the same kind of deals 'if I travel before July 30th'. Is this a correct assumption? Because if so, I'll just wait. If it is NOT correct, well, I'll need to do some budget reshuffling.

Posted by Tracy
Macungie, PA, USA
422 posts

thank you! and no, i'm not expecting to see the same (very low) numbers that i'm seeing for spring sales--just something--ANYTHING--less than what is posted right now. a friend of mine flew to spain (from philly) last summer for $220 ROUND TRIP--that's what i was originally hoping for, but now would be happy with anything under $800. right now it is around $1200. as there are two of us flying, even that savings would be huge...well, at least to me, saving $800 is huge! that savings would buy is two more weeks in europe!

Posted by Tyler
San Francisco, California, USA
446 posts

Fares to Europe are always higher in the summer. In my opinion, I doubt if you will get a fare under $900, at the most.

As an example, right now, expedia.com shows a US Airways non-stop from Philadelphia to Madrid for $1164, departing on Wednesday, July 21 and returning Wednesday, August 4. That's not a bad price for a non-stop.

Posted by Tracy
Macungie, PA, USA
422 posts

hmmm. that is disheartening. i have looked in to doing the combo flight/hotel deal via large sites (like expedia or orbitz...those kinds of sites) and to fly into and out of a city WITH four nights in a passable hotel is still maybe $100 cheaper (per person) than just the flight. so i'm thinking maybe just do that, and be happy that i get to stay for an extra week in an additional city. any thoughts on that?

Posted by Tyler
San Francisco, California, USA
446 posts

"No one really knows what fares will be like later for next summer, and the deal you got last year was almost in the "too good to be true" range."

You never know. Like, sometimes a particular airline will suddenly come up with a "promotional" fare to a particular city. That was the case for me, last May, when KLM offered a round trip San Francisco to Berlin for under $500. I grabbed it.

The flight was non-stop to Amsterdam, with a connection to Berlin, and to just fly round trip to Amsterdam, on the same flight, the fare was about $800. Doesn't make much sense, but then, airfares seldom do.

Posted by Tracy
Macungie, PA, USA
422 posts

ha ha...without exploding...very funny! i do sometimes feel that way. thank you for your advice!

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1507 posts

You might try departing from NYC and checking various dates with both IcelandAir and AerLingus, that fly from there to various cities in Europe. IcelandAir switches planes in Reykjavik. AerLingus changes planes in Dublin. Both tend to be around $100 cheaper than major airlines, although that varies quite a bit with the days of the week. You sometimes have to do a fair bit of tedious searching to find the best price option.

Posted by Carol
Atlanta, GA, USA
679 posts

OK, your friend's $220 was probably one of those "error fares" and you should NOT plan on getting anywhere close to that. I just booked a frequent flyer ticket, taxes were $130 or so..... So the "fare" your friend paid probably was one of those 'idiot' moves that airlines make and people JUMP on. (www.flyertalk.com mileage run forum lists them every now and then!)

However, I think you need to plan on close to $1,000. I have run into this when advising my Girl Scout groups. Like you, they look and see "March" for $500, 600 etc and come to me with budgets for that. I then double that and they whine, but later they have always admitted, that's what we paid for summer travel.

Also, how flexible are you? If you only want Flight X on Day Y etc, it gets harder.

Posted by Christy
Seattle, WA
684 posts

For a France trip last October I waited...and waited..and waited for those FALL sale fares to arrive. And last year, they never came (well, the airlines sent out "fall sale fares" but they were hardly discounted). And airlines have cut back flights so much that the downturn in travel isn't bringing the great fares you'd think it might. So you just never know. Maddening, isn't it.

And you're probably looking at US Air flights...I've found fantastic fares through Philly on US but 10-11 months in advance. Then those seats sell and the prices keep going up.

You might check the price differential policy of each airline you might fly on. Airlines will sometimes refund you if a price drops; sometimes this will be a credit toward a future flight; sometimes there's a refund minus an administrative fee, sometimes you're out of luck, etc. But you might feel okay buying earlier if you buy on an airline that will refund at least part of a price drop.

Posted by Ron
southwest, Missouri, U.S.A.
1359 posts

Hello Tracy. In the year 2009, some of the prices for airline tickets (for flying from the U.S.A. to Europe) were abnormally low, especially for travel before May 15, 2009. This year, 2010, the prices for airline tickets are 50 percent higher than the prices were in the year 2008.

Posted by Cindy
Moreno Valley, CA
153 posts

I'm waiting too...however, I'm too afraid to book lodging or anything until I book my flight. I want to be a little flexible if a good sale comes. I've found a fare for $1088 on Delta for LAX-London and Madrid-Ontario in August. That's down from $1200 about 8 weeks ago. Only drawback is that the LAX-London is not non-stop. I don't think I can wait until April or May...I will definitely explode before then!

Posted by Thomas
WILLIAMSBURG, va, usa
11 posts

We are looking for tickets to Barcelona for 12 June returning on the 27th. I am just shocked at the airfare this year. Barcelona in the past has always been the cheaper port to go. Do you think airfares will drop between now and the end of March? Or is it anyone's guess? Aireuropa, has the cheapest from JFK but I have seen mixed reviews. Any thoughts will be appreciated.

Posted by Tracy
Macungie, PA, USA
422 posts

Thomas...
I've been looking multiple times a day for over a month now--since the first of the year, actually--and have seen little change. a flight from anywhere near NYC--newark, philly, jfk...i've checked all of them--to London is around $950. and that's better than the original flights we found to Paris, which are still around $1200. we found one cheap flight on iceland express for $700 per person round trip Newark to London Gatwick, but again, Iceland Express got TERRIBLE reviews, and they don't even start flights out of the US until this June, so it kind of scares me to book something that is so risky. (my husband keeps saying 'i'm ok with staying in a budget hotel, NOT flying a budget airline'--and i kind of see his point.) right now we've booked our lodging for our three week trip this summer, but i am waiting out the airfare. in my (possibly very incorrect) opinion, it can't go up that much more, right?!? and as i check every day, i'd notice if it did. we're thinking of waiting until the end of march to book a flight. if it has not gone on 'sale'--sale meaning ANYTHING less than $800--we're just going to suck it up and pay the grand a piece.

Posted by Tracy
Macungie, PA, USA
422 posts

Cindy...
I totally see the value in not booking lodging until you've found a flight! I'd feel much better if we ONLY had the flight, as opposed to ONLY having the lodging (because basically we are now in a position of HAVING to pay whatever we can get). The only reason we did it the other way is because we have rather specific travel dates and wanted to benefit from lodging availability sooner rather than later (and we rented crazy cheap apartments and hotels that book up early) We will be traveling during the three weeks my husband actually has off this summer. We are both teachers and thus can only travel in the summer, and on top of that he teaches summer courses! So basically I booked the lodging so he could not schedule more classes! We're already down to three weeks in what for me is a ten week summer availability (though I'm now thinking I'm going to stay in the UK after he leaves and explore on my own...more on that in future posts). Also--is it wrong that it annoys me that flights are the same out of LAX as they are out of JFK? Isn't JFK, like, closer??? Shouldn't that matter at all? Sorry--I realize I sound whiney, but really--these fares are insane! Best of luck to you!

Posted by Thomas
WILLIAMSBURG, va, usa
11 posts

Cindy,

I think you are right. New York last time I looked was closer to Europe. But maybe it moved. Or so I thought when I saw a one way fare on Air Berlin from SFO to BCN for $475.00 including taxes and fees. Not only are flight WAY over priced but the connection are terrible.I live in Virginia. So every day I start looking from Boston to Washington in hopes that I don't miss anything. We are going on a cruise out of Barcelona and planning on leaving early to spend some time in Barcelona. So our dates are somewhat flexible. I will confess one day I saw a fare on Tap for $605 round trip EWR to BCN but I couldn't get the return flight it left at 7:25AM. The airlines in Barcelona are suggesting at least three hours arrival at the airport prior to departure due to the three security check point. i can't believe that people are paying these very high price tickets. We have to have our final payment in by April 5th at the lastest. We may have to wait a bit longer then i would like Yikes!!

Posted by JS
Bay Area
2081 posts

ck Aer Lingus they go to Paris as well as ireland. And the fares have been very low in gen.

Posted by Andrea
West Coast
138 posts

Cindy~

I was in the same situation but went ahead and booked hotels & B&B's that had cancellation policies so I wasn't totally locked in. I've only had to pay out a deposit (refundable) on one hotel in London - the rest just needed my credit card number to guarantee the reservation. It helped to work on this part of the trip while I was waiting to see if airfares would go down.

Your Delta flight sounds pretty reasonable to me from what I've been tracking since before Christmas. I finally broke down and bought my tickets about two weeks ago -- nonstop on LAX-London on United for a little bit more than that. It feels GREAT to have those in hand, and now I feel like the trip is really happening. I also worried as I watched the better seats on various flights I liked being taken up -- didn't want to end up the the middle on a 10-hour flight. Now if I could just stop obsessively checking fares on Kayak to see if I bought at the wrong time...

Posted by Anne
Weeki Wachee, FL, USA
75 posts

Andrea- I had to laugh when I read your post. I broke down and bought our summer flights (12 June- 26 June) last night. I saw a $74 drop- the most in two weeks- so I decided to purchase before the flight got too full. My partner is a nervous flyer and we must sit over the wing...or else! So, I might have saved a hundred or two had I waited, but at least we are over the wing! BTW- our flights are JFK-HEL, then OSL-KEF (with 24 hour layover to see Iceland)-JFK, $1053 per person on Icelandair. I don't think I did too badly...

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7185 posts

In the Air Force we had one major axiom, Flexibility is the Key to Airpower! We always added, only half-jokingly, "That translates roughly to 'always carry-on your luggage'."

Flexibility is also key to getting good flight deals. If you simply "must" fly into, and out of, CDG airport and your dates are "absolutely" fixed, betting on finding a good airfare is like betting on an inside straight - possible but not likely.

All prices are based on availability - supply and demand. I get the best possible deals by trying multiple airports for take off and landing on multiple dates. The deals are to be had where the demand is less than the supply.

Right now I'm working on a Baltic trip in September. I can fly into London (and hop from there), Amsterdam, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Berlin, Copenhagen, Helsinki or Stockholm, then fly home out of any of those. There are probably other possibilities I haven't looked at yet.

For departure I can fly out of the three Washington area airports or even catch a flight out of Pennsylvania, New York or New Jersey. How far am I willing to go to? It depends on the deal. If I can save $500 per ticket. I'm willing to drive a few hours. If the price is worth the inconvenience, I might even leave from and return to different airports.

Because I'm willing to find the deal then design my itinerary around that, the chances are much better that I will find a great price.

It's time-consuming to search all my options but usually the reward is much more than I would get for a couple of extra hours at work.

The nice thing is I can set up alerts for a variety of possibilities with the different online search engines.

Posted by Thomas
WILLIAMSBURG, va, usa
11 posts

I live in Williamsburg, Va and that is exactly what I am doing I start looking in Boston and work down the coast to Washington. I have tried flying into Germany and then taking Vueling to Barcelona but it's not any cheaper. Then I have looked into London , not cheap at all, nor is Dublin. Talk about time consuming, it sure is. Aerlingus is having a sale but the sale fares are only up to May 31, so I am hoping that in a month the fares my come down.I too have all travel alert set, but I am still waiting to wake up some morning to find that I have hit the jackpot. LOL! I hope that I am not dreaming.

Posted by Crash
Santa Rosa Beach, FL
7 posts

Hey Tracy,
I think you are close to Allentown, No? That makes you about a hundred miles to New York City. Check out Kayak.com for fares from all airports out of NYC. I am booking JFK to Dublin even though going to Madrid in September. It's 556.20 per person round trip. We then train it to Belfast. We have to add in train costs, 204.00, to Belfast from Dublin, plus airfare of 63.10 per person on Easyjet roundtrip to Madrid. Airfare direct to Madrid at that time is 1,328.40 per person. It saves us a total of 1,216.20 and we get 4 days in Ireland to boot. I don't know where you are going, but if you can get to any airport in London, Ryanair, Virgin, or Easyjet can get you the rest of the way.

Posted by Tracy
Macungie, PA, USA
422 posts

thanks! and yes, we are practically in allentown, and i have been looking at new york on kayak. it is only a 90 minute bus ride to JFK from here. we are also willing to do any other airport within 200 miles--we've looked at BWI and Philly. our now plan--having already booked hotels (we have a limited travel window)--is to fly into london, stay for a week, take eurostar to paris and back, and then leave from london. it is still at around $950 round trip from anywhere near here to london, and i think that's what we're going to have to pay. i'm going to wait it out for a month or so more, though, on the off chance that i can snag a discount fare. i think traveling in the summer is just forever going to be more expensive, which kind of stinks for us, as we are teachers and thus both have no money AND can only travel in the summer!

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7819 posts

Tracey,, travelling in summer is not always more expensive. Sights usaully charge same prices year round. Hotels in some cities GO DOWN mid July thru August, so really,, only airfares go up..

I have booked a hotel for late July, 127 euros a night, the SAME HOTEL charges 150- 180 for all the dates I looked at in May and June.. all those months, plus first two weeks of July.

I will pay about 300 dollars more for my airfare to travel in July, BUT ,, will be saving on my hotel ..13 nights times the extra per night charge, so I actually come out ahead.

To really get cheap air and cheap hotels one has to go really off season, like Jan- Feb..