The main concourse at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport (image by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty)
Charisse Jones, USA TODAY
A Memorial Day getaway from the office will cost a little less this year, but fliers need to move fast to get the best deal.
The average price for a round-trip domestic flight, from May 23 to 28, was $341, including taxes, according to a fare analysis by travel website Travelocity. That's a 2% dip from the holiday period last year, while the average price for an international round trip was $981, a 1% drop from 2012.
"I think we're finally seeing a bit of softening in demand,'' says Courtney Scott, Travelocity's senior editor. "The airlines are having to counteract that to a certain degree by lowering the prices to keep planes flying full.''
Fares, however, are creeping up the closer we get to the Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of the summer travel season, Scott says. Last week, round-trip domestic fares were up $10, on average, over the fare lows seen at the start of April. For the week of May 19, fares are expected to be $23 higher, on average, based on data from past years.
Still, there are ways to save money.
Heading home before the actual holiday, for instance, can be a bit cheaper than returning that Monday or a day or two later. Flying out on Thursday, May 23, and returning on Saturday, May 25, for instance, will cost, on average, $300 for a round-trip domestic flight. But heading out on Friday, May 24, and coming home on Memorial Day saw the average domestic fare bump up to $350 round trip, Scott says.
Using an airport that's a little farther out can also save a few dollars. "Don't lock yourself into the closest airport geographically,'' Scott says, "because an airport a few miles away could be offering a great deal.''
Of the top 10 destinations booked through Travelocity for the Memorial Day holiday, New York is No. 1 for the third year in a row. But Washington, D.C., is No. 3 and was a particularly good deal, Scott says. The average fare to travel there dropped 6%, to $286, as compared with the holiday period last year. That's the steepest dip in ticket price for any of the top spots.