If you’re looking for advice on the best travel hacks, you’ll find a LOT of opinions on the internet. However, not all travel tips are created equal. Not all of them are even true!
We’re testing out a bunch of the internet’s trendiest flight tips to discover which ones are REAL and which you should IGNORE. Follow along as we debunk some popular theories and uncover some gems along the way.
From when you should book your flights to what you should wear to the airport, there are a lot of myths about travel out there. But there are also some real hacks that can make your travel experiences much more pleasant! Let’s find out which of these tips are true and which are FALSE.
The Best Day to Buy Flight Tickets Is Tuesday: FALSE
It’s a popular claim among travel gurus that the best day to book your flight is on Tuesday. It doesn’t matter which Tuesday, apparently — just book on TUESDAY. But is that really true?
According to Phil Dengler (founder of The Vacationer), “there is no evidence” that Tuesday is any better for booking flights than other days of the week (CNN). Experts on NerdWallet agree with Dengler. They said, “Believing there’s just one optimal day a week to save on flights — and that day is Tuesday — is the stuff of legends.”
So who should we believe? To get to the bottom of this issue, we found a study conducted by CheapAir (their Annual Airfare Study) that tracked flight costs through several weeks and analyzed the difference in price. This study looked at 917 million airfares.
The results showed that “there is on average less than a 0.6% (less than $2) difference between purchase days of week.” So whether you book on a Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, or any other day doesn’t make much of a difference at all.
The TRUTH: The Best Day to Book Your Flight is 76 Days Before You Travel
Airfare changes quite a bit (on average, it changes 53 times between when the flight is announced and when the plane takes off), so there are definitely better and worse times to book. However, the best time to book is more of an issue of how far in advance you purchase tickets rather than on which day of the week.
The same study by CheapAir showed that, while there isn’t an ideal day of the week to book your flight, there IS an ideal timeline to follow if you want to get the cheapest flight tickets. They found that the best day to book your flight is 76 days before you plan to travel.
Buying much earlier than that could yield higher prices, and you definitely don’t want to wait until the last minute, according to Jeff Klee (CEO of CheapAir). From the results of the study, CheapAir identified 6 different booking windows:
- “First Dibs”: approximately 6.5 – 10 months in advance, when flights first open for sale and fares tend to be on the high side.
- “Peace of Mind”: 4 – 6.5 months in advance, when fares are at a modest premium but options abound.
- “Prime Booking Window”: 3 weeks – 4 months in advance, when airfares are the cheapest, on average. This is typically the best time to buy airline tickets.
- “Push Your Luck”: 2 – 3 weeks in advance, fares can vary dramatically but are often rising significantly, particularly as flights fill to popular destinations.
- “Playing with Fire”: 1 – 2 weeks in advance
- “Hail Mary”: 1 week in advance, this is when airfares are highest, on average $150 more than booking in CheapAir.com’s “Prime Booking Window.”
And although Tuesday isn’t necessarily the best day for booking a flight, it might be one of the best days for flying. CheapAir found that Tuesday and Wednesday are the cheapest days to fly, while Sunday is the most expensive.
Flight Apps Can Help You Find the Best Deals: TRUE
It can be exhausting to keep checking flight ticket prices and decide when is really the best time to book your trip. That’s why flight apps come in handy — they’ll monitor ticket costs and let you know when you should book and when you should wait for lower prices.
Some of the most popular apps for tracking airline ticket costs are Hopper, Skyscanner, and Kayak. These apps work in fairly similar ways, so we’ll focus on Hopper here so that you get a general idea of how to use them.
You can download the Hopper app on your Apple or Android device and use it to search for the cheapest flights and track when travel prices might go down. You’ll select your desired route (destination and take-off point), and Hopper will give you a color-coded calendar to show you which days are the cheapest to fly. Green days are the cheapest, yellow and orange days are mid-range, and red days are the most expensive.
Then, you’ll choose your desired travel dates, and Hopper will suggest a few different options for your next step. If the price is at its cheapest, the app will recommend you book immediately. However, you could also use the “Price Freeze” feature to pay a non-refundable deposit that will ensure you don’t have to pay an increased price if it goes up.
You can also choose to press “Watch This Trip,” and Hopper will notify you when ticket prices are at their cheapest point. That way you don’t have to keep checking back — you can just let Hopper do the work.
That’s just one example of a flight tracker app that can take a load off your shoulders when it comes to finding the cheapest possible flights. There are several options out there, so you can test them out and find out which one you like the best!
Airlines Jack Up the Price If You Use the Same Browser to Look at Flights Twice: FALSE
We know that companies can track data and user information on websites. So it kind of makes sense that an airline company could see which flights you’re looking at online and then, if you return to look at those same flights, show you increased prices because they now know you’re interested in them. But is that really possible?
According to a spokesman from Kayak (an online travel agency and flight search tool), “Cookies or no cookies, it is impossible for us to show different prices to different users” (Consumer Reports). Even if airlines can tell that you’re very interested in a certain flight, they don’t appear to be able to increase prices for one browser while keeping them the same on a different one.
So if you’re tracking a certain flight, don’t worry too much about deleting your history, using different browsers, or asking your friends to search the flight for you — it sounds like the prices won’t differ based on your previous searches.
The TRUTH: There Are Better Ways to Find the Cheapest Flight
Rather than using several different browsers or worrying about cookies on websites, you’re more likely to find the cheapest flights by continually checking the prices (or using a flight tracker like Hopper) and using various flight search tools.
Shopping around with different airlines, sites, and apps will give you a good picture of the average flight prices for the time you want to visit and where your destination is, which will help you make an informed decision when you actually book.
Incognito browsers aren’t the answer here — diligent searching and a lot of patience will yield better results.
TSA PreCheck Is Worth the Money: TRUE
Have you ever been waiting in a long line to go through security at the airport when you suddenly see someone else hop into their own special line, bypass everyone else, and go straight through the checkpoint with way less hassle? That lucky person probably has TSA PreCheck — and you can get it too!
TSA PreCheck is given out by the Transportation Security Administration (the same ones who facilitate security checkpoints at the airport), and those who qualify can use it to access special lines and simplify the security screening process. Travelers who use it won’t have to wait in line as long, and they also don’t have to remove their belts, shoes, and jackets when going through security.
To get TSA PreCheck, you’ll apply online (at the TSA website), which should only take a few minutes. You’ll then need to schedule an appointment at an enrollment center near you and go in for a 10-minute meeting that includes a background check and fingerprinting. Then, you just have to wait to be approved by the TSA.
PreCheck costs $85 for 5 years (if your application is accepted), and the online renewal fee is $70 (every 5 years). If you fly fairly often and don’t want to wait in line or stress over being late for your flight, TSA PreCheck can absolutely be worth the cost.
You’re More Likely to Get an Upgrade at the Airport If You’re Dressed Up: FALSE
Some influencers have claimed that you’re more likely to be upgraded to a higher class seat on an airplane if you’re dressed professionally when you arrive at the gate. That may have been true previously, but some experts have reported that it is no longer the case.
According to Business Insider, one of the main reasons that this can’t be true now is that airlines have updated their seat assignment process. One expert said, “It’s not like it was 10-15 years ago. Now the airline has probably already decided where you’re going to be sitting before you’ve even left the house.”
Now, this one may depend more on how each individual airline and flight attendant chooses to operate, but for the most part, you should be fine turning up in leggings and a sweatshirt for your next flight.
The TRUTH: You Can Still Be Upgraded, Even In a Sweatshirt
If your goal is to be upgraded, there are more certain (and comfortable) ways to do it than by showing up in a suit. One of the best ways to achieve upgrades is to earn status with the airline, which you do by accumulating frequent flyer miles. To get the most miles possible, try to fly with the same airline as much as possible. That way your miles won’t be distributed across several different airlines.
You can also fly with someone else who has status with an airline already, as they may be upgraded and able to take you with them to the nicer seating area. Some credit cards offer miles or upgrades as benefits for spending a certain amount of money — check your cards to see if those kinds of perks are available to you!
There you have it! We’ve debunked 3 popular travel myths and confirmed 2 that can actually help you save time and money on your next vacation.
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What are your best travel tips? Let us know in the comments!