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'There's no truth or validity' to this cheap airfare myth, says Scott's Cheap Flights founder

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Key Points
  • "Airfare is the single most volatile purchase that most people make," says Scott Keyes, founder of Scott's Cheap Flights.
  • "If you're planning to book a flight for summer vacation now, be prepared for sticker shock," says Henry Harteveldt, president of Atmosphere Research Group.

Of the thousands of myths about air travel out there, some are easier to disbelieve than others. Take the ones from the movies. No, a bullet hole in the fuselage won't create a giant hole that sucks (non-James Bond) passengers out of an aircraft. And pretty much everyone knows that you can't go running past airport security scot-free to catch up to your crush before she boards her flight — looking at you, kid from "Love, Actually."

Other, real-life myths about air travel seem a little more plausible, and not knowing them can cost you money, travel experts say. Take the idea that searching for a route will boost the prices you see the next time you search. Believing this could keep you from conducting a thorough hunt for the best deals, and it's pure fiction, says Scott Keyes, founder of travel newsletter Scott's Cheap Flights. "There's just no truth or validity to it," he told Grow.

Read on for three myths about air travel and how believing them is keeping you from saving money on airfare.

Myth 1: Searching for flights will jack up the fares

But wait a second, you may be thinking. I've searched a fare, come back the next day and found it was $200 more expensive. Explain that!

"Airfare is the single most volatile purchase that most people make," Keyes explains. "The prices are changing because that's what airfare does. It gets especially volatile within four to six weeks of a flight, which sort of compounds on itself because people are searching more."

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Essentially, this myth is a case of people thinking that they're the main character when it comes to flight searches, and they're not, points out Keyes. "There are hundreds of millions of airfare searches every week, yet people assume changes in airfare must be about the searches they're personally doing."

To find the cheapest airfare, he says, don't be afraid to cast a wide net. Search routes through different airports, different destinations, and different dates. And if you find one you potentially like, don't be afraid to track the route to be alerted of movements in the price.

Myth 2: You can score deals on flights at the last minute

If you traveled last summer, this myth may have been a reality. The pandemic-related dip in travel demand meant that airlines were offering a greater number of cheaper seats for longer. But cheap, last-minute flights during the heart of the pandemic were the exception, not the rule.

"If you're planning to book a flight for summer vacation now, be prepared for sticker shock," says Henry Harteveldt, president of Atmosphere Research Group. "Two years of pent up travel demand mean that we have more people wanting to travel domestically and internationally."

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Airlines only designate a certain number of seats for each flight to be sold at a lower price point, Hartevedlt says, so by waiting, you drastically lower the chance of getting yourself in one. Your best option: booking well in advance of when you plan to travel.

Keyes calls the ideal time to book the "Goldilocks window" — the period during which you're most likely to find the best deals on airfare. "For domestic flights, one to three months is most likely. For international, two to eight months," he told Grow. "If you're traveling during a peak travel period, like in the middle of summer, add a few months to the window."

Myth 3: Travel agents are obsolete

Many would-be travelers assume that travel agents have gone the way of milkmen and rappers in parachute pants, but that's not the case, says Harteveldt. "There are still tens of thousands of travel agents working in the U.S.," he says. "Mine is almost always able to help me save money."

One way an agent can help you save is by finding package deals on flights and lodging that may be trickier to find than through travel search engines. "They may also have access to unpublished airfares, and really good ones are going to be much better than you are at tracking the prices of flights to destinations you have an eye on."

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And even if they can't find you the deal of a lifetime on airfare, it's always good to have someone with connections in the travel industry in your corner, Harteveldt points out. "Maybe they can find you a deal on a hotel, but if not, maybe they can use those relationships to get you an upgrade, or breakfast, or free WiFi."

For larger families, especially, finding small cost savings here and there can more than offset the cost of hiring an agent, Harteveldt adds. "There are numerous ways to stretch your dollar, and this is going to be a tough summer if you're trying to get a bargain."

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