How to Find Cheap Summer Flights (June 2023)
Per our recent survey, more than 54% of American adults intend to fly on a plane this summer. Unfortunately, that means flight prices and other travel costs are up. The good news is it is still possible to find and book cheap summer flights. While our general how to find cheap flights guide is still important for summer travel, here are more specific guidelines for finding the best deals.
Fly During Non-Peak Summer Times
This requires a lot of flexibility, but the savings are worth it. We usually recommend to pick your travel dates based on the cheapest day to fly. While that recommendation still stands for the summer, the window for cheap days to fly is smaller.
In many parts of the United States, it is still warm enough to enjoy the beach and other typical summer activities during these two times.
- End of May to Late June
- Middle to End of August to the Middle of September
Search for flights during those times. Most people take their summer vacation during peak months, which are the beginning of July through the middle of August.
Generally, prices are cheaper as you get further from the peak. For example, the middle of September is cheaper than late August; The end of May is cheaper than late June.
The key is finding the sweet spot when kids are still in school in most parts of the country but it is still warm.
The Google Flights screenshot above shows various dates for a flight from Philadelphia to Miami. On most days, late August and September is cheaper than the beginning of August.
Before Booking, Ensure Most Things Are Open
You need to find the sweet spot. A cheap summer flight too early or too late in the season may mean nothing is open. Before booking, check your destination’s local hours, including hotels, restaurants, and points of interest.
Check the average weather, too. While most states are warm enough for summer activities during our recommended times, things like high elevation and other factors may mean colder weather.
Book Your Summer Flights Well in Advance
Start searching for summer flights as early as possible. And by early, we mean up 11 months in advance (airlines release flights on average 330 days before takeoff).
That leaves you with the largest selection of flights to choose from. While the prices will probably not be at their cheapest, there are a few advantages.
- Plenty of routes available (guaranteed direct flight)
- Plenty of seats available (first class, aisles, windows, or whatever your preference is)
Most people are not thinking about summer travel that far in advance. Most are just starting to consider holiday flights for that year. Use that to your advantage.
Monitor the cheapest routes over the next few months using a Google Flights alert. Book when your itinerary drops to a price you are willing to pay (you have 24 hours to cancel). The window for the best price and route combination is usually around four to eight months in advance, but it always varies. At the absolute latest, book at least three months in advance.
Book international summer trips at the earlier end of the four to eight-month range.
After Booking, Continue Monitoring Summer Flight Prices For Drops
Airfare prices are dynamic and can change many times each day. That’s good news. Unless you purchased a basic economy ticket, your fare probably does not have change fees. Here is why that matters.
- Book your summer flight
- Monitor prices for that flight
- Your flight price drops
- Cancel your current flight and receive a flight credit
- Rebook your original flight with your flight credit and pocket the difference
Let’s say you paid $900 for a roundtrip summer flight from Philadelphia to Los Angeles for August. You receive a Google Flights price alert saying the price dropped from $900 to $600. You then cancel your current flight for a $900 American Airlines flight credit. Finally, you rebook for the same flight using the flight credit and have $300 in flight credits left in your account.
Be Flexible for Your Beach Town and Airport
There are many amazing low-key beach towns in the United States and around the world; Visiting one could save you a ton of money on flights and lodging.
Consider Smaller Beaches or Less Touristy Spots
Do not limit yourself to only the most popular beach destinations. While those are popular for a reason, they also come with heavy crowds. Heavy crowds may mean expensive flights and lodging. For example, Cape May, NJ is one of the best beach towns in the United States. Unfortunately, it is also very expensive. Instead, consider visiting a cheaper but still beautiful nearby beach town like Margate, NJ.
The same rule applies even if you are not visiting a beach town for your summer trip. Consider smaller, less touristy areas to save money.
Further Reading: Best Beaches in Florida and Best Beaches in South Carolina
Consider Alternate Airports and Then Commute
While this may cost you time, it can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in flight costs. After picking your summer trip destination, search for every airport within a few hundred miles. How many miles depends on how far you are willing to commute after landing.
For domestic flights, the commute usually means a drive or train ride. For international trips, it may mean landing on a country or continent and then taking another flight.
After figuring out how far you are willing to commute, use a tool like Google Flights to compare flight prices arriving at the closest airport to your destination and the alternate airports. Sometimes the commute may not be worth it, but that is for you to decide.
For example, Atlantic City International Airport is the closest airport to southern NJ beaches like Cape May and Avalon. In many cases, other nearby airports like Philadelphia International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport may have cheaper flight prices. While your drive to the beach towns would be a little longer, the savings could be significant.
The above example shows various flight options for a roundtrip flight from Minneapolis to Philadelphia, Newark, and Atlantic City. While Atlantic City is very close to the beaches, its flight is $598. Here are the better options.
- MSP to PHL for $173
- MSP to EWR for $229
In that example, it makes sense to fly to Philadelphia or Newark to save hundreds of dollars.
9 More Summer Flight Booking Tips
Here are other things to keep in mind when booking your next summer flight.
The Day of the Week You Book Does Not Matter – Cheap summer flights are available 24/7. Do not limit yourself to only certain days or times. See the best day of the week to book flights for more information.
Fly on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays – Due to a variety of factors, it is usually cheaper to fly on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Keep that in mind when picking your days to fly this summer. See the best days to fly for more information.
Consider Budget Airlines – While I do not love them, budget airlines like Southwest and Spirit are usually cheaper. With the low cost comes drawbacks, however. Flight delays and cancellations are more common with budget airlines, and that can ruin your trip. Additionally, seat selection, beverages, and bags may not be free. Southwest, however, does offer free checked bags, which is a huge positive if you are checking bags for your summer trip. See how to avoid flight delays and cancellations and beach vacation packing list for more information.
Consider a Flight with a Connection – No one likes layovers. It takes longer, and your odds of experiencing a delay or cancellation drastically increase with more legs. Regardless, you should still consider a summer flight with a connection. The price difference between it and the direct flight could be significant.
Book Directly with the Airline – Last summer saw numerous airline meltdowns. Booking directly with the airline allows you to contact its customer support, which is essential if your flight gets delayed or canceled. See what to do if your flight gets delayed or canceled and best websites for booking flights.
International Flights May Be Cheaper – Certain summer flights to international destinations are cheaper than those to domestic destinations; Keep an open mind when picking your vacation spot, and do not assume domestic is always cheaper.
Book Your Flight with Points or Miles – Flight bookings are consistently the best redemption method for credit card points. My favorite travel credit card for doing that is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Points are worth 25% more when booking flights through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. For example, 100,000 points are worth $1,250 (as opposed to $1,000). You can also transfer credit card points (or use existing airline miles) to various airlines to book award flights at a great value.
Book Your Flight with the Right Travel Credit Card – My favorite credit card for flight bookings is The Platinum Card® from American Express. It earns 5x points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines or with Amex Travel (up to $500,000 per calendar year). The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve® both earn 5x points per dollar spent on flights booked through Chase. Unfortunately, both cards earn fewer points per dollar spent for direct flight bookings, which is why I prefer the Amex Platinum.
Get Through Airport Security Quicker – While this tip will not help you save money on summer flights, it will better your airport experience. Apply for a Trusted Traveler Program like Global Entry or TSA PreCheck to get through TSA airport security quicker.
Our advice works for booking domestic summer flights as well as international destinations like Europe. Start searching around 11 months in advance. Be flexible and pick your travel dates based on the cheapest time to fly. Consider a variety of destination airports that may have cheaper flight prices but require a commute.
Book around four to eight months in advance. You should start your search when airlines begin releasing summer flights, which is around 11 months in advance.
Flight prices are the cheapest right before the summer peak and right after. That means late May through the end of June and the middle to the end of August through the middle of September.
The Vacationer’s Final Thoughts
Flexibility is the key to finding cheap summer flight deals. Be willing to take your summer vacation from late May through the end of June, which is before the peak season. You should also consider taking it after the peak summer travel season, which is the middle to the end of August through the middle of September. When you see a good flight price, book it because you have 24 hours to cancel. Book with points or with a top travel card that earns a lot of points for flights. For more general flight booking tips for the rest of the year, see our how to find cheap flights guide.
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