Strategize: Begin mapping out when and where you want to go.
- Finalize vacation dates: Talk to your boss now about taking days off. If you can begin or end your trip on a midweek day - or better still, on both ends - you will save money over the usual depart-on-Friday, return-home-Monday itinerary.
- Plan your route: Fly in and out of the biggest airports near your departure city and destination. Smaller airports, even mid-sized ones, will almost always cost more.
- Consider delaying vacation: Waiting until late August can save money if you don't have to consider children's school calendars. Note: Autumn starts a little late this year (Sept. 23) so it may seem like summer lingers longer.
Start shopping: Remember, Memorial Day is Monday, May 26.
- Book now: If you plan to get away Memorial Day weekend or begin travel in early June, now is the time to start booking flights.
- Date to remember: If you can complete travel by June 7 (or at least begin your trip before then), you will save on longer flights like coast-to-coast trips.
Start shopping in early April for July travel and beyond
- Miles: If you'll travel in peak season, it may pay to use miles for your ticket (or to buy or borrow some). Check with the FlyerTalk community for the latest deals and strategies.
- Look for cheaper destinations: A good way to do this is by checking out current airline sales to see which destinations are cheapest from your city; the deals won't be as good in July but you'll know which routes offer better value.
- Cutting costs: Try shaving airfare costs by traveling on red-eyes, or taking connecting flights instead of non-stops (but compare prices of both flights to be sure one is cheaper than the other).
Finish shopping: Higher rates kick in May 16.
- Cheap cities: London, Paris and Rome always make the 'most popular' lists which is why they're always more expensive. Look at cheaper alternatives such as Dublin, Frankfurt, Zurich or cities in Spain or Scandinavia.
- Cut costs to expensive cities: If you have your heart set on one of the big three, consider flying to Dublin and catching one of Europe's many discount carriers for the final leg of your journey, such as JetStar or Ryanair. Review the fee policies of these airlines carefully, though - the baggage charges can be killer.
- Delays can pay: Consider postponing summer vacation until late August when airfare to Europe drops back to pre-summer prices.