If you want to get away this summer, you need to look for fares now. In recent weeks we've been seeing sale prices slowly rising, and the closer we get to summer, the more likely the deals will dry up.
When searching for summer fares, consider flying midweek on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and also on Saturdays, because those are your best bets for cheap travel days. Avoid travel on Fridays and Sundays; those are the priciest days of the week. If you're traveling with kids, take advantage of the flexibility they have to travel midweek during the summer.
While we have been seeing some pretty good fares to the East Coast during recent promotions, sales for the West Coast have been erratic. For the past month, we've seen sales almost weekly to the East Coast, but the only consistent West Coast sale city has been Los Angeles, where round-trip fares from Dallas have been as low as $249, including taxes and fees. That's a good price for any time of the year. The rest of the West Coast, however, has been running in the mid-$300s and up. If you're flexible, the East Coast will give you more savings, with recent sale fares of $208 round trip from Dallas to cities such as New York, Boston and Tampa.
Be careful if you're looking for fares during the weekends. Most sales come out on Tuesdays and are available for purchase for two or three days. If you wait until the weekend to buy, fares can jump by hundreds of dollars. While fares usually rise on the weekends, you can see short-lived snooze-you-lose fares any day of the week, so don't completely rule out buying fares on the weekends.
If you're looking for East Coast fares, look for sales on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, but if you're looking for West Coast fares, look every day of the week. Continental stands out with recent retaliation fares out of Dallas, but other airlines offer snooze-you-lose fares, too, so look at a booking engine that pulls up multiple carriers at once. These include Travelocity.com, Bestfares.com and others.
Because airlines have been offering a lot of sales recently, they're running out of cheap seats. In early March, we were seeing as many as five days a week that you could travel on the cheapest fares, but it's now down to three days. If you see a sale to your destination for summer travel, there's a slight chance the price will go down, but a much better chance that it will increase as planes fill up.
There never seems to be enough capacity to the West Coast in summer, so if you spot a fare of $270 or less to Seattle, Portland or San Francisco, book it.
If you're traveling to Denver, Southwest is offering sale fares for travel through June 30. One-way fares are $89 between Dallas and Denver, plus taxes and fees. Tickets must be purchased by April 19, with a 14-day advance. Blackout dates are May 27 through June 1. Fares are valid Monday through Thursday and Saturday. Contact: 1-800-435-9792; www.southwest.com.