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When to book flights?

Bonnie2617

Certified Ski Diva
Lodging is all booked for my first trip out west! Will be going to Steamboat at the end of February!

So now it’s time to think about flights. I have heard that it may not be best to book flights too far in advance and that prices go down at the 6 month pre trip mark. But thinking the situation may be different for a small resort town like Steamboat. I’ll want to fly into Hayden.

And I have not flown in ages, so have no sense of how much flights should cost! The flights I’m eyeing are $475 RT (NYC-Hayden with a layover).

Any advice would be appreciated!
 

MissySki

Angel Diva
I’m trying out the app “Hopper”. You can set an itinerary and then it projects whether you should buy or if prices will go down ahead of your trip. It also messages you intermittently and should tell you when the best deal is seen. Can’t really say how good it is yet though since I haven’t used it fully yet. :smile:
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
Paging @teppaz . . . she flies out of NYC.

Do you have an airline preference? I fly out of RDU and almost always fly on Southwest. That's partially because 2 checked bags are free. Also SW has no change or cancellation fees as standard policy. When flying for a ski trip with a ski bag, that can mean $30-100 difference compared to other airlines. SW typically has 3-day sales about once a month, with a major sale in June and October. However, SW doesn't open up their schedule for the winter as early as other airlines.

Note that during the pandemic, all airlines were changing their schedules a lot as the situation evolved. Hopefully that won't be the case for the upcoming season.

SW started flying to Hayden. I just got an email from Steamboat saying that SW would have flights during the summer for the first time. So it's an option now.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
Just realized that this week is the annual national sale for Southwest. The schedule only goes thru early January 2022.
 

Bonnie2617

Certified Ski Diva
Sounds like waiting until at least Southwest opens up flights is a good idea. Can setup some price alerts and see what things look like over next few months.

Got so overwhelmed when I started looking into this! Went on one site that popped up like 5 of those cheap flight sites. Then it started showing me mostly flights that are over 20 hours in duration. They don’t make it easy!
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
Got so overwhelmed when I started looking into this! Went on one site that popped up like 5 of those cheap flight sites. Then it started showing me mostly flights that are over 20 hours in duration. They don’t make it easy!
The flip side of being in NYC is that you have a lot more options than people flying out of less popular airports. I had major culture shock moving from NYC to NC in the 1970s the first time I flew instead of driving. Back then the RDU airport was tiny in comparison. There was only one small terminal building with just 4 gates! Even now there aren't too many places I can fly non-stop to ski out west.

As an example, here are my notes for flying from RDU to ABQ in Feb 2020 (pre-pandemic) as I watched the airfares for Southwest. A bit cryptic but the main idea is that the price ranged from $159 to $204 during Oct 2019. For ABQ, midweek and weekend schedules and pricing are quite different. It's not like a major airport like Denver or SLC. I bought my ticket in mid-Sept to be safe because my schedule needed to match up with other people and there aren't too many options between RDU and ABQ.

31Jan RDU-MDW-ABQ $179 - as of 29Oct
same flight $204, Sat $164 - as of 15Oct
same flight $199 - as of 05Oct after early Oct sale
same flight $199 - as of 01Oct
Sat via PHX $159, 2 left - as of 01Oct
 

santacruz skier

Angel Diva
My flights in both 2018 and 2020 San Jose to ABQ was more than that !!!!
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
My flights in both 2018 and 2020 San Jose to ABQ was more than that !!!!
Note that the prices in Post #7 are one way, not round trip. I typically pay between $350 and $500 round trip (including tax), but often buy tickets for each direction separately. I usually only add Early Bird to the flight at the start of the trip.
 

santacruz skier

Angel Diva
Note that the prices in Post #7 are one way, not round trip. I typically pay between $350 and $500 round trip (including tax), but often buy tickets for each direction separately. I usually only add Early Bird to the flight at the start of the trip.
Now that makes more sense !
 

santacruz skier

Angel Diva
My one flight booking tip from a friend is to browse flights in an "incognito" tab in your browser. If you don't, the site will remember the prices it has already offered you and you may end up with a higher lowest price than if you went incognito.
So true.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
https://flights.google.com is also very good for finding flights!
Worth checking for cities like New York City, but for someone who hasn't flown to ski before keep in mind that Southwest prices are not included. Looks like the flight schedules are listed but without prices.

Some general travel websites don't include Southwest at all. If I'm looking for flights based on lowest price, I'll look on a travel website and then compare to Southwest. I add baggage fees for a ski trip, assuming I'm bringing skis.

For a meetup, it's good to try to coordinate in advance with others to increase the chance that sharing a rental car from the airport will worth out. The other advantage for Southwest (pre-pandemic) is that there are no fees for changing flights or cancelling (has expiration date for credit). Right now the major airlines don't have change fees in some cases and perhaps that will a positive outcome of the pandemic in 2020.
 

santacruz skier

Angel Diva
The beauty of Southwest for ski trips is the bags fly free as well as skis and boots count as one. Also as @marzNC stated, the cancellation is policy is good.
However, Southwest is not an option for some trips. I do like @SkiBabyMD 's suggestion about google flights when using other airlines though.
 

teppaz

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Paging @teppaz . . . she flies out of NYC.

Do you have an airline preference? I fly out of RDU and almost always fly on Southwest. That's partially because 2 checked bags are free. Also SW has no change or cancellation fees as standard policy. When flying for a ski trip with a ski bag, that can mean $30-100 difference compared to other airlines. SW typically has 3-day sales about once a month, with a major sale in June and October. However, SW doesn't open up their schedule for the winter as early as other airlines.

Note that during the pandemic, all airlines were changing their schedules a lot as the situation evolved. Hopefully that won't be the case for the upcoming season.

SW started flying to Hayden. I just got an email from Steamboat saying that SW would have flights during the summer for the first time. So it's an option now.
So many variables to keep in mind! Which NYC airport works best for you is one. Another is whether you're flying with skis. I take public transportation if I'm traveling light. With my skis, though, I need to book a car service and I also need to make sure the ski bag will fit.

I love Southwest as well and try to use them as much as possible. I used to be a big fan of JetBlue to get to Salt Lake City for example, but their fares haven't been so great in the past 2-3 years and these days they mostly match Delta out of NYC.

What I've been doing a lot lately is booking one-way trips on different airlines. For a work trip in July, I'm flying JetBlue from NYC to Denver and Southwest on the way back.

Southwest's sale is tomorrow but yeah, they're only booking through January so far.
 

santacruz skier

Angel Diva
So many variables to keep in mind! Which NYC airport works best for you is one. Another is whether you're flying with skis. I take public transportation if I'm traveling light. With my skis, though, I need to book a car service and I also need to make sure the ski bag will fit.

I love Southwest as well and try to use them as much as possible. I used to be a big fan of JetBlue to get to Salt Lake City for example, but their fares haven't been so great in the past 2-3 years and these days they mostly match Delta out of NYC.

What I've been doing a lot lately is booking one-way trips on different airlines. For a work trip in July, I'm flying JetBlue from NYC to Denver and Southwest on the way back.

Southwest's sale is tomorrow but yeah, they're only booking through January so far.
Will we see you in Taos?
 

Christy

Angel Diva
Got so overwhelmed when I started looking into this! Went on one site that popped up like 5 of those cheap flight sites. Then it started showing me mostly flights that are over 20 hours in duration. They don’t make it easy!

My policy is, find a reasonable fare that you think is what you'd expect to pay, then book it and don't worry about it. 20 years from now you are going to remember your great trip, but not that you could have saved $30 if you'd booked at a different time.

I'm not sure if Alaska is the only airline that does this, but they at least guarantee you are paying the lowest fare they offer. If it drops, you get the money back in credit. If any of the airlines you would fly there do this, you have no worries.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
I'm not sure if Alaska is the only airline that does this, but they at least guarantee you are paying the lowest fare they offer. If it drops, you get the money back in credit. If any of the airlines you would fly there do this, you have no worries.
That's nice!

With Southwest it's possible to change for a cheaper price later on, even for the same itinerary. But that only makes sense if you know that using a credit for $20-30 is going to be straightforward. I track prices but usually don't bother to make the effort.
 

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