McLean, VA (written by Rick Seaney/Special for USA Today) -- If you must fly in the peak of the summer, you might as well quit reading now - the rest of this column just disappeared. If you're still with me, let's see if we can pull a few rabbits out of the hat as you plan your next year of travel.
Are certain dates during the year cheaper to fly?
Absolutely - my airfare analysis reveals the following "magical" dates:
1. November 22nd - Thanksgiving
Most of us are acutely aware that that Thanksgiving fares can carve a big gash out of your budget - unless you travel on the day the turkey is the one under the blade.
Thanksgiving Day is a relative deal; it's the same price as the Thursday after Thanksgiving - which was priced at 40% off last week, thanks to a sale from Southwest.
Tip: Avoid the Wednesday before and the Sunday and Monday after Thanksgiving unless you're prepared to - let's keep the metaphor going - apply a tourniquet.
2. December 18th - Last day before the airlines' Christmas season
The Advent calendar may start three weeks earlier (the chocolate version of which seems to vanish pretty quickly at our house) but airlines begin their Christmas season on the 19th by charging an additional 30% or more for the following two weeks.
Tip: Airlines offer a bit of a price break for Christmas Day and New Year's Day departures.
3. March 20th - European vacation
The first day of spring - yes, it's on the 20th next year - is a charmed date as departures to Europe go up in price by 20% or more starting Mar. 21.
By the way, the first day of spring in 2013 is a Wednesday which adds its own mystique since weekday departures bring an additional savings of $30 each-way compared to takeoffs on Friday through Sunday.
Tip: No, it's won't be too cold; look for crisp afternoons in the 50s in Paris.
4. June 3rd - Tokyo
This is the last day to fly to Tokyo from the West Coast on the biggest airplane in the world (the A380) on one of the world's best airlines (Singapore) for just $852 round-trip - and yes that does include everything. A good trick, given that tickets on United and Delta on that route cost twice that amount.
Tip: Buy a cheap ticket to the coast and hang out a day to prepare for a flying experience that I trust you'll find magical.