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Flexibility is key to best airfares

By Scott Mayerowitz

Associated Press

Published: Friday, June 8 2012 9:52 p.m. MDT

FILE - In this Wednesday, May 23, 2012 file photo, an Air China jet prepares to land at the Capital International Airport in Beijing. Flying this summer doesn?t need to be expensive, as search engines, social media, creativity and flexibility can make finding bargain airfares easier. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan, File)

Associated Press

NEW YORK — To snag the best airfares, travelers need to be adventurous and willing to pick up at a moment's notice.

OK, now let's be realistic. Most people making summer travel plans need just that: plans. They get a week off, maybe two, and aren't going to spend hard-earned cash on a last-second whim.

But great deals are still within reach for those who have even a little flexibility in choosing where and when to travel.

The average roundtrip domestic ticket will cost $431 this summer, an increase of 2.6 percent from last year, according to Kayak.com. But remember: that's an average. One trip might cost $800 while another can be found for $200.

"Airfares are high but there are pockets of cheap out there," says Seth Miller, an information technology consultant who writes a blog under the name The Wandering Aramean. Miller does his best to beat the system by connecting in strange cities, flying at off hours and taking advantage of sales often offered when an airline adds a new destination.

Here are some tips from Miller and other expert travelers on how to combat rising airfares.

WEEKEND FARES

When airlines don't fill planes for an upcoming weekend, they slash prices.

Each Tuesday, they email offers for that coming weekend or the following one to fliers who have signed up online for the deal alerts. Travelers have to depart late Friday night or anytime Saturday and come back Monday or Tuesday. An added plus: weekend getaways save precious vacation days.

TWITTER AND FACEBOOK

Airlines are experimenting with sales on Twitter. At the forefront is JetBlue, which tweets last-second fare sales and vacation package discounts from (at)JetBlueCheeps. Some deals apply to just a few seats and are gone within hours.

"If you find something, jump on it," says John DiScala, who each year flies around 150,000 miles, visits 20 countries and writes about it at JohnnyJet.com.

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