If you’re looking to save big bucks on your next vacation, try booking your flight exactly 54 days in advance.
Research by CheapOAir.com found that in 2013, airfare started to drop about 225 days before a domestic flight. It continued its decline until it bottomed out at 54 days, then started increasing again as the date of the flight neared.
As long as you buy your ticket within 104 days of your flight, though, you’ll likely be within $10 of the lowest price point, and stay within that $10 until 29 days out, when airfare starts to jump considerably.
The research also showed that there’s not much truth to the “seat dump” myth — that you can find rock-bottom prices at the last minute as airlines try to sell off empty seats.
You might get lucky, but in most cases, “that simply doesn’t happen,” according to the website.
Here are some other tips for getting the most bang for your travel buck, both before and during your vacation:
Time it right
Traveling during the off-season can save you money on airfare and accommodations as companies try to attract paying customers during the slow season.
Call your destinations tourism bureau to find out when the off-season is and why it’s considered “off.” Make sure to keep in mind weather when considering an off-season trip — you may find winter weather will impact what you plan on doing once you get to your destination (and in some cases, it may make things easier).
Fly midweek to take advantage of lower airfare prices. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are generally the cheapest for domestic flights, with Fridays and Sundays being the most expensive. Flexible travel dates can end up saving you hundreds of dollars.
Use discount food apps
KidsEatFree will show you locations where — you guessed it — kids eat free. Restaurant check-ins on Yelp or Foursquare can earn you an instant coupon for doing nothing more than tapping a button on your phone. And LocalEats shows you restaurants and deals near your current location.
Save on food
On the flip side, eating out can get expensive fast, even with discounts. Especially if you’re traveling with family, look for accommodations with an in-suite kitchen or “kids eat free” policies to get the most bang for your travel buck.
Ask a local
We all know we can point a tourist to a good, usually cheap, place to eat (or do anything else, really). The same goes when the tables are turned and we become the tourists. Ask a local where to find the best cheap eats or good weekend activities and you’ll escape the high-priced tourist traps salespeople will point you to.
Use multiple travel sites
Sites like Expedia, Kayak, Orbitz, Priceline and Hotwire all help you find good travel deals, but not all deals are created equal. Take advantage of the sites’ offers to search multiple sites for deals, because chances are you won’t find the same deals in each place.
Think carefully about loyalty programs
Take advantage of loyalty programs if you fly often enough to earn rewards, but make sure you’re aware of point expiration dates and other limitations before you proclaim yourself a devout flyer of a single airline. If you’re only flying a few times a year, you’re likely better off shopping airlines for the best deal than staying with the same company on the off chance you’ll earn enough points for a reward before they expire.
Go sightseeing for free
There are generally free attractions to be found regardless of your destination. Check sites like Yelp, Foursquare and TripAdvisor before your trip to find out-of-the-way hangouts or popular local museums and tours.
Use public transit
If you’re heading to a city, public transit will be drastically cheaper than taking a cab everywhere you go, and more convenient than keeping track of a rental car and paying for parking. You may prefer a rental car if you’re planning on hopping between cities during your trip, but if you’re planning to spend your entire day in a city, your best bet is to hop on the metro or take a bus.
What’s your best money-saving travel tip? Let Stephanie Grimes know at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find her on Twitter: @stephgrimes