To find the cheapest time to travel -- whether by air, train or ferry -- you need to look out for services with lower demand. Service providers charge more at popular times so to find the lowest price -- no matter where you're travelling or how -- means being flexible about which day of the week you leave, the time, and often the season.
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Airlines - business travel
Airlines charge less on flights where fewer people want seats. That often means booking the first flight in the morning and an early wake-up call, or taking the last one in the evening. For example in July 2013 a British Airway's flight at 7:20am from London Heathrow to Berlin Tegel had advance Business Class seats available for £231 but the price rose to £488 for the 11am flight later that day. Sundays and Mondays tend to be pricier days to fly than mid-week and Saturday nights. American Airlines's lowest-priced flights on Sunday and Monday from London Heathrow to New York JFK were £1427 in July 2013, whereas you could get a seat on the same flight for £775 on Fridays. If you're flying internationally and looking for the cheapest deal check if there's an overnight "red-eye" option arriving at your destination early in the morning.
Airlines - tourist travel
Look for flights to favourite tourist spots outside the peak school holiday summer months for the cheapest time. EasyJet's lowest priced flight from London to Nice in July 2013 was £60.99 -- the same flight was half price -- £28.99 -- if you waited until September that year. The day and time you fly makes a difference, too. Early morning mid-week flights are cheaper than prime weekend lunchtime slots. EasyJet's Saturday 11:50am London Luton to Nice flight was £190.00 as of July 2013 -- but if you could leave at 08:40am on a Tuesday that month you could get the same flight for £60.99.
Train operators cut fairs on less busy trains outside peak commuter times and at weekends. They sell so-called Off-peak and Super Off-peak tickets for less than the standard fare, but the price and restrictions vary a lot depending on where you're travelling, when, and the train operating company. First Great Western's standard one-way single from Reading to London Paddington in July 2013 was £21.50 whereas their off-peak single -- valid for trains arriving after 10am -- was £17.10. Advance tickets are available in limited numbers on trains travelling throughout much of the day. They need to be booked ahead of time and are only valid on the date and train shown on the ticket. An advance single fair on the 7:32am service from Sheffield to London St. Pancras International was available for £65.00 in July 2013 -- a standard single on the 7:27am train -- timetabled to arrive 42 minutes earlier -- was £104.00.
Ferry prices have big seasonal swings either side of the school summer holidays -- so sail earlier or later in the year for the cheapest price. A one-way trip for two adults in a standard size car on Brittany Ferries' 8:15am sailing from Portsmouth to Caen on a Saturday in August 2013 was £269. The same sailing was £119 if you departed on a Saturday in October 2013. Take mid-week departures for the lowest fares. Irish Ferries' 11:50am Holyhead to Dublin passage for a car with two adults on a Saturday in September 2013 was £172 -- but the price dropped to £115 for the same sailing on a Wednesday that month.
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