NEW YORK — To snag the best airfares this summer, travelers will need to be adventurous and willing to pick up at a moment’s notice.
The average round-trip domestic ticket will cost $431 this summer, an increase of 2.6 percent from last year, according to Kayak.com. But that’s an average. One trip might cost $800 while another can be found for $200.
“Airfares are high, but there are pockets of cheap out there,” says Seth Miller, an information technology consultant who blogs under the name The Wandering Aramean. Miller does his best to beat the system by connecting in strange cities, flying at off hours and taking advantage of sales often offered when an airline adds a new destination.
Here are some tips from Miller and other expert travelers on how to combat rising airfares.
Last-minute weekend trips: When airlines don’t fill planes for a weekend, they slash prices.
Each Tuesday, they email offers for that coming weekend or the following one to fliers who have signed up online for the deal alerts. Travelers have to depart late Friday night or anytime Saturday and come back Monday or Tuesday. Recent offers include: Houston to Memphis for $180; Huntsville, Ala., to Chicago for $174; Washington, D.C., to Greenville, S.C., for $157; and Charlotte to West Palm Beach, Fla., for $240.
Check Twitter, Facebook: Airlines are experimenting with sales on Twitter. At the forefront is JetBlue, which tweets last-second fare sales and vacation package discounts from @JetBlueCheeps. Some deals apply to just a few seats and are gone within hours.
JetBlue recently tweeted a sale at 3:16 p.m.; it ended at 6 p.m.
Airlines announce special sales to those who “like” their Facebook pages, and sites like AirfareWatchdog offer fare alert emails (http://airfarewatchdog.com/fare-alerts).
Flexible dates: Looking to go to Paris for a week but don’t care when in the next few months? ITA Software’s airfare search (http://matrix.itasoftware.com) provides a calendar of the lowest fares.
Just enter the departure and destination city and then how many nights to spend there. It will find the cheapest prices for a month out from a given date.
Chase the fare: Want to know the cheapest fares from a departure city to anywhere? Check out Kayak’s explore tool (http://kayak.com/explore). You can see a map with all the destinations under a set budget point.
Searches can be done for a month or for summer. The query can be narrowed by activity, or by continent.
Odd connections: Fares to Hawaii might be steep. But connecting though another city with a sale to Hawaii could save a lot of money. Use AirfareWatchdog’s “fares to a city search” (http://airfarewatchdog.com/cheap-flights/to-a-city) to see if there are any less-expensive, indirect routes to your destination. Instead of flying from, say, Boston to Honolulu, it could be a lot cheaper to book two separate tickets – the first between Boston and Houston and the second from there to Hawaii.