Cruise 101: When is the Best Time to Book a Flight?

Advice for finding the best fares.
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If you are planning a cruise vacation chances are you will need to fly to your port of embarkation especially if it is located on another continent. Here are a few tips to help you find the best airfare.

Book not too early and not too late: This is an obvious one but research from CheapAir.com found that only 34% of travelers booked their tickets within the optimal window for pricing. What is that window? According to Expedia, Inc. and the Airlines Reporting Corporation for trips within North America the lowest fares are 57 days before departure. For international destinations it can range from 77 days for the Caribbean to 176 days for Europe. The further you are flying, especially if it is not one of the uber-popular routes, the earlier you should book.

Time your purchase: Do not buy your ticket on Friday. The Wall Street Journal recently found that Sunday offers the lowest average ticket price. High-fare corporate travelers are rarely competing with vacationers to buy seats over the weekend, particularly Sunday.

Compare fares: Google Flights was the community favorite in a recent survey on Lifehacker, but there are plenty of sites out there that streamline the process of comparing fares. In addition, sites have gotten better at accessing and calculating airlines different add-on fees to give you a complete picture of how much you will be spending.

Consider booking cruise and air together: Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean buy a lot of airline tickets so it is not surprising that they get lower rates based on bulk purchases. In fact, their Air2Sea program offers a lowest airfare guarantee. This means you may want to skip the independent booking. Aside from the ease of one-stop shopping, if there is an issue with your flight, the company will provide travel support. Any snafus with independently booked air travel are up to you to sort out.

Regardless of where you purchase your air travel, remember to allow plenty of time on either end of the trip to eliminate the stress of rushing. One tip, plan to arrive in your port of departure the day before embarkation, and do not skimp on time to disembark the ship and transfer back to the airport.

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