How to Find Cheap Flights to Visit Colleges and Universities
by Rick Seaney
So you’re about to embark on a tour of colleges and universities to see which one’s the best fit for your teen. Or maybe he has already been accepted, and you’re going to scope out the scene with an eye toward dorms or apartments. Either way, you will want to get there for the least amount of money, and here is how to do that.
If you’re driving, good news—gas is cheap. That’s good news for flyers, too. Low oil prices mean airfare prices are relatively flat compared to last year. Here are other ways to save:
Avoid flying during the most expensive season.
Try to avoid visiting schools in the summer time; prices are highest in this peak travel season. Plus, a quieter-than-normal campus won’t give your child a realistic view of the place. Domestic fares rise for summer beginning June 10, so take off before then or after August 23 when cheaper fall fares kick in. Other dates to remember: March 16 is the last day for cheap winter airfares; prices jump March 17 and again on May 17.
Avoid flying the most expensive days.
The most expensive days are probably the ones you planned to fly: Fridays and Sundays. They’re expensive because the airlines are no dummies—they know we want to fly then. You can usually find much better deals on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Add a little inconvenience to your flight.
There are two ways to do this:
Always compare the price of non-stops with connecting flights; the less convenient connections can often be a lot cheaper.
Don’t forget to compare prices of all the local airports. Say your child got accepted at Dartmouth; the closest airports to Hanover, NH are small facilities in Manchester, NH and Burlington, VT., but don’t stop there. Check fares to Boston’s Logan as well; chances are good you’ll find deals at this larger airport that make the extra drive time worth it. Tip: Many schools, like Dartmouth and Boston, have a shuttle service between the airport and campus.
Rick Seaney is a travel expert and CEO of FareCompare, an airfare search site devoted to helping shoppers find the cheapest flights possible. FareCompare also offers easy-to-use, practical information to help travelers save on every step of their journey. Visit farecompare.com/#quote