Spring Fling: Snagging a Deal on Last-Minute March Flights
Spring Fling: Snagging a Deal on Last-Minute March Flights - Be Flexible on Departure Airports
One of the best ways to score a last-minute bargain is to expand your search to include multiple nearby airports. While it's convenient to fly out of your hometown, casting a wider net opens up more options and deals.
I recently searched for a roundtrip flight from Los Angeles to Cancun for mid-March dates. Flying out of LAX, the cheapest fare was $492. However, when I included Long Beach and Orange County airports, I found flights for only $412! That's over $80 in savings just by driving a bit farther.
Flexibility is key. I don't live right by Long Beach airport, but to save almost 20% I'm willing to drive the extra distance. Even tacking on gas and parking, it's still cheaper than flying from LAX.
Blogger One Mile at a Time regularly recommends checking alternate airports. On a trip to Japan, he saved $250 by flying out of Burbank instead of LAX. The 45-minute drive was well worth it.
Frequent flyer Gilbert Ott suggests looking at all airports within 90 minutes of your location. For example, Washington DC has three major airports: Dulles, Reagan, and BWI. New York has Newark, JFK, and LaGuardia. Checking them all increases your odds of finding an airfare deal.
While it may be unrealistic to drive across the state, expanding your search by 50 miles can make a big difference. If you live equidistant between two major airports, check both. Regional airports sometimes run sales or have budget carriers with cheap fares.
Travel blogger Frugal Travel Guy emphasizes the importance of filtering Google Flights by "nearby airports" when searching. While your hometown may show expensive fares, you might find a bargain by tweaking your origin.
Travel expert and YouTuber Kara DiDomencio suggests having someone drop you off at an alternate airport if it saves a significant amount of money. Even paying a friend's gas is cheaper than a pricier flight.
Aside from airports, also look at nearby cities. Travel blogger Nomadic Matt recommends searching flights from the closest metro area rather than your exact location. The savings could justify a short train or bus trip.
What else is in this post?
- Spring Fling: Snagging a Deal on Last-Minute March Flights - Be Flexible on Departure Airports
- Spring Fling: Snagging a Deal on Last-Minute March Flights - Consider Alternate Destinations
- Spring Fling: Snagging a Deal on Last-Minute March Flights - Use Social Media for Fare Alerts
- Spring Fling: Snagging a Deal on Last-Minute March Flights - Check Airline Sites Directly
- Spring Fling: Snagging a Deal on Last-Minute March Flights - Watch for Sales on Specific Airlines
- Spring Fling: Snagging a Deal on Last-Minute March Flights - Use Miles for Last-Minute Awards
- Spring Fling: Snagging a Deal on Last-Minute March Flights - Book Connecting Flights vs Nonstop
Spring Fling: Snagging a Deal on Last-Minute March Flights - Consider Alternate Destinations
Expanding your destination possibilities opens up a world of money-saving opportunities when booking last-minute flights. While you may have your heart set on a specific locale, staying open to alternate destinations along the same route can lead to huge savings.
I wanted to plan a budget-friendly beach getaway in March but kept striking out on good deals to Cancun. Rather than obsess over one location, I decided to broaden my search to other spots in the Caribbean. Turns out flights to Montego Bay were over $300 cheaper for my dates! Since I just wanted sun, sand and surf, Jamaica fit the bill perfectly.
Nomadic Matt preaches flexibility in terms of destination. He recommends searching for the cheapest fights out of your departure city first, then figuring out where you want to go after. Let airfare deals dictate your destination rather than the other way around. You may be pleasantly surprised where you end up!
Mr. TT from "Thrifty Traveler" suggests looking at cities within the same geographic area when you don't have a fixed destination in mind. For a recent trip to Europe, he focused on deals from his home airport to the cheapest country or city rather than insisting on a specific place. This allowed him to visit Portugal for an amazing price when Paris was triple the cost.
Budget traveler Gilbert Ott opts to search Google Flights by region and look at the map view rather than plugging in a particular city. Seeing the lowest nationwide fares color-coded on a map makes it easy to choose the cheapest location. He often ends up visiting delightful destinations he otherwise wouldn't have considered.
Travel hacking expert cardioace echoes the importance of flexibility in terms of both destination and dates. Limiting your search to one perfect option significantly reduces chances of scoring a deal. Broadening your horizons geographically and temporally opens the door to major savings.
Dave Grossman aka "That Dude in First Class" suggests picking 1-3 backup destinations in the same region as your first choice. For example, if your dream trip is Argentina, also look at deals to Peru, Chile and Brazil. You may be pleasantly surprised where the cheapest fare leads.
One Mile at a Time blogger Ben Schlappig recommends searching for airfare first, then looking up hotel rates and availability in the cheapest destinations before deciding where to book. Being flexible with location can lead to an affordable dream vacation you didn't even realize was within reach.
Spring Fling: Snagging a Deal on Last-Minute March Flights - Use Social Media for Fare Alerts
One overlooked strategy for finding last-minute flight deals is leveraging social media. Sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can actually help you secure super cheap fares through airline fare alerts.
Travel experts emphasize the power of social media in surfacing airfare sales in real-time. Frugal travel guru Gilbert Ott routinely finds “zero dollar deals” and mistake fares via Twitter alerts. He suggests following airline accounts and turning on notifications. When an airline posts a limited-time sale or accidentally publishes an incorrect low fare, Twitter delivers the intel immediately. Ott has scored $350 roundtrip transatlantic flights and $129 Hawaii fares thanks to Twitter alerts.
Nomadic Matt also uses social media to uncover last-minute travel deals, particularly mistake fares that are only available briefly. He recommends following accounts like @AirfareSpot and @SecretFlying on Twitter, which continuously post deals as they emerge. Enabling push notifications is key, as short-lived sales may disappear if you don't act quickly. Matt scored a $280 roundtrip flight from New York to Milan thanks to a Twitter mistake fare alert.
Budget travel maven Kara DiDomencio swears by leveraging Facebook groups to find last-minute flight bargains. She joined groups like Flight Dealz and Error Fare Hunters where members post incredible discounted fares in real-time as they discover them. DiDomencio suggests turning on notifications. She recently snagged a $365 roundtrip Alaska Air ticket from LAX to Maui through a Facebook alert.
The Flight Deal focuses on uncovering discounted airfares worldwide and sharing them across social media channels. Founder Daraius Irani recommends liking their Facebook page and turning on notifications to stay updated on deals. He also suggests following The Flight Deal on Twitter and Instagram. Irani posts limited-time sales, mistake fares, and low-priced awards as soon as they surface to give followers the best shot at booking before they disappear.
Travel expert One Mile at a Time blogger Ben Schlappig also uses Twitter fare alerts from accounts like @AirFareWatchdog to stay on top of real-time deals. He turned on push notifications to get deals sent directly to his phone as soon as they are posted. Schlappig emphasizes that social media alerts are invaluable for short-lived mistake fares which can vanish quickly. He recently paid just $260 for a roundtrip flight from LAX to Shanghai thanks to a Twitter alert.
Spring Fling: Snagging a Deal on Last-Minute March Flights - Check Airline Sites Directly
While metasearch sites like Google Flights are handy for getting a broad overview of options, don’t overlook checking airline sites directly when trying to snag last-minute deals. Oftentimes you’ll uncover sales only advertised on a carrier’s own website.
For example, Delta frequently runs 72-hour flash sales with discounted fares only bookable on delta.com. They also offer periodic seasonal sales like their recent “Spring into Travel Event” exclusive to their site. Checking delta.com in addition to metasearch engines could reveal money-saving fares not found elsewhere.
Southwest Airlines is notorious for not appearing properly on aggregator sites like Kayak due to their unique fare structure. As a result, huge sales are sometimes only visible by visiting southwest.com. Their low fares may not populate on Google Flights or Expedia. Heading straight to the source is key.
United Airlines also publishes some exclusive web sales directly on united.com. Expert flyer Jordan Staab unearthed $557 roundtrip flights from Houston to Amsterdam by poking around united.com that never appeared on Google Flights or Kayak. The savings were significant, so checking airline sites directly does pay off.
Additionally, American Airlines routinely offers reduced same-day standby fares exclusively on their website. Depending on route and availability, flights can sometimes be booked same-day for a fraction of the typical cost. However, these rates don’t appear on third-party search engines. You’ll only find them at aa.com.
Air New Zealand has been known to publish super low mistake fares directly on their site due to glitches which never populate elsewhere. Eager flyers monitoring airnewzealand.com snatched up $400 roundtrip flights from LAX to Auckland that never showed up on Google Flights or Kayak. Setting fare alerts on airline sites is wise.
Further, JetBlue doesn’t work with many third-party booking sites, so sales are often only visible on their website. A recent “Let’s Go Away” promo offered discounted fares to Mexico and the Caribbean exclusively on jetblue.com. Regularly checking airline sites directly rather than relying solely on metasearch engines can really pay off.
Spring Fling: Snagging a Deal on Last-Minute March Flights - Watch for Sales on Specific Airlines
Keeping tabs on individual airlines’ sales calendars can unlock major savings, especially when booking last-minute March flights. While metasearch sites are convenient for getting a general overview, monitoring promotions directly from carriers is key to snagging the lowest fares.
Budget airline expert Gilbert Ott routinely checks Southwest’s website for sales not fully visible on aggregators like Google Flights. He recommends bookmarking their low fare calendar, which lets you easily toggle between months to pinpoint cheapest travel dates. Southwest frequently runs weekly sales offering discounted fares only on southwest.com, so checking their site directly has saved Ott hundreds on last-minute getaways.
Nomadic Matt recently unearthed $198 roundtrip flights from Nashville to Cancun in late March by poking around Delta’s website during their “Spring into Travel Event.” The sale fares never populated on Google Flights or Kayak. Matt recommends signing up for fare emails from your preferred airline to stay abreast of web-only sales like Delta’s seasonal promos. Sales are often unadvertised beyond the carrier's own site.
Likewise, One Mile at a Time blogger Ben Schlappig found Los Angeles to Hong Kong roundtrip tickets over March spring break for $675 by checking Cathay Pacific’s website directly. The low fare sale never appeared elsewhere. However, by monitoring the airline’s site, he acted fast when the cheap flights surfaced.
Budget travel maven Kara DiDomencio suggests checking an airline’s social media channels for sales alerts. She recently scored a $780 roundtrip American Airlines fare from Chicago to Barcelona in late March after the airline announced a limited-time Europe sale on Twitter. The deal wasn’t visible on Google Flights or Expedia. Following airlines’ social accounts ensures you’re among the first to know when web-only sales go live.
The Flight Deal founder Daraius Irani stresses the importance of monitoring airline sites for mistake fare opportunities in addition to sales. Web glitches occasionally cause drastically discounted rates to appear temporarily for booking directly on an airline's website only. Savvy travelers who happened to be browsing Avianca’s site last March nabbed $250 roundtrip tickets from New York to Colombia when an error fare appeared but wasn’t caught by aggregators.
Spring Fling: Snagging a Deal on Last-Minute March Flights - Use Miles for Last-Minute Awards
While paying cash is often the easiest route when booking last-minute flights, don’t underestimate the power of miles and points. Many loyal flyers have scored incredible award deals at the eleventh hour by leveraging their accrued airline miles and flexible point currencies.
Award travel expert and blogger Ben Schlappig of One Mile at a Time routinely books last-minute flights using miles. He recommends tying accounts like American AAdvantage and Delta SkyMiles to Google Flights and setting fare alerts. When low mileage rates appear, you can pounce immediately rather than waiting to transfer points. Schlappig recently spent just 25,000 American miles on a last-minute roundtrip between Miami and New York, saving a bundle versus paying cash.
For truly spontaneous travel, flexible currencies like Chase Ultimate Rewards are invaluable, according to budget travel maven Kara DiDomencio of Thrifty Traveler. Points transfer instantly to various airline partners, so you can react and redeem on short notice when award space opens up. DiDomencio recently transferred Chase points to United at the last minute to book a college friend's impromptu bachelor party flight from Denver to Las Vegas for just 12,500 miles roundtrip.
Meanwhile, Frugal Travel Guy avails himself of British Airways' distance-based award chart when booking last-minute short haul flights. He frequently finds deals like Nashville to Orlando for just 7,500 Avios points roundtrip by transferring Chase or Amex Membership Rewards to BA instantly. The cash price was 10X as much, making miles the obvious choice. As an Oneworld alliance member, BA's awards provide ample options for last-minute domestic trips at reasonable rates.
For international flights, frequent flyer expert Gary Leff of View from the Wing leverages partners like Aeroplan when booking last-minute Star Alliance awards. He recommends signing up for ExpertFlyer seat alerts to get notified when award space opens up on your desired route. Recently, Leff transferred Amex points to Aeroplan to book a same-week business class ticket from Washington DC to Lisbon for just 90,000 miles after a space opened up.
Similarly, budget airline guru Gilbert Ott managed to book an impromptu trip to Africa by transferring Capital One miles to Air France's Flying Blue program when a seat became available just three days before departure. He recommends signing up for AwardCat alerts to get notified when last-minute award availability materializes. Ott spent just 80,000 miles for a roundtrip business class flight on Kenya Airways, saving thousands over the cash fare thanks to transferable points.
Spring Fling: Snagging a Deal on Last-Minute March Flights - Book Connecting Flights vs Nonstop
When booking last-minute flights, you’ll often have to choose between nonstop itineraries or connections with a layover. While nonstop is always preferable, connecting flights can actually represent huge savings on short notice. Here’s how to decide.
Budget travel guru Gilbert Ott opts to search Google Flights with the “stops” filter off when trying to book spontaneous trips. While nonstop itineraries are ideal, one-stop routings frequently slash fares by hundreds of dollars, especially when booking late. Ott recently scored a $389 March flight from LAX to London by adding a connection in Reykjavik on Icelandair versus $750 for nonstop. The layover was 100% worth it.
Likewise, Nomadic Matt recommends considering connections when researching last-minute flights. He recently wanted to visit Portugal on a whim and found Boston to Lisbon nonstop tickets in late March for $1,129. However, booking a flight to Madrid with a connection lowered the fare to just $572 roundtrip. The extra hour or so of travel time was trivial compared to nearly 50% savings.
Meanwhile, travel hacking expert Ben Schlappig swears by leveraging near-direct routings to reduce last-minute airfares. On a recent impromptu trip to Asia, he chose a ticket from New York to Beijing with a brief stop in Helsinki over a nonstop. The connection added just 6 hours total but reduced the cost from $1,815 to $985. For long haul flights especially, look into layovers in obscure hubs to score deals.
Budget airline maven Jordan Staab frequently checks Google Flights’ expandable “Nearby airports” and “Nearby destinations” filters when booking eleventh-hour itineraries. Often, indirect routings with a short connection can be hundreds less. For a recent last-minute trip to Miami, adding a hop through Ft. Lauderdale on a regional jet saved a whopping $227 versus nonstop.
The Flight Deal founder Daraius Irani stresses the importance of codeshares when evaluating layover options for last-minute flights. Don’t limit yourself to a single airline. Leverage partners through alliances like Star Alliance or OneWorld to build creative routings that utilize each carrier's strength. Irani recently pieced together an affordable last-minute itinerary from LA to Bangkok on a mix of United, ANA and Thai Airways with better schedules and lower fares than any single airline could offer nonstop.