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Buy and fly in September to find the lowest prices of the year

After a summer of seemingly never-ending high prices for airfare, September is a welcome change for travelers. Post-Labor Day fares tend to drop significantly, offering a chance for travelers to grab inexpensive airfares before prices skyrocket to their holiday highs.

Airfare in September tends to be lower, particularly for domestic travel, than airfare at other times of the year. According to Amy Bohutinsky, a spokeswoman for Hotwire, “Across the board, September is a great time to travel, as it’s a ‘sandwich’ monthÂ?a pocket of lower demand squeezed between two periods of peak demand.” In September, students return to school, teachers to work, and many people are returning from their summer vacations, thus decreasing the high demand for travel that is prevalent from mid-June to August.

To increase airfare purchases, airlines will often release sale fares in the hope that travelers will take an unplanned or weekend trip. Some airlines increase the number of last-minute airfares that they offer weekly, while others, including America West, American, and Delta, offer last-minute “sports” fares to cash in on travelers wanting to catch a college or professional sporting event. Sign up for SmarterTravel.comÂ?s last-minute airfares newsletter to get all of the last-minute weekend fares e-mailed to you every week.

While most airlines were hesitant to comment specifically on post-Labor Day sales for this year, an American spokesman did acknowledge that the leisure travel market drops off after the summer, and that it is not unusual for the airline to fit in some fare sales to entice people to travel. According to research performed by Hotwire, fares this September are slightly less expensive than fares for the same period last year, due to “aggressive pricing among all the airlines and a general low-fare environment.”

This is good news for fall travelers, particularly on domestic routes for which seasonality is not as much of a factor for pricing. International travel, where price is determined by travel season, may not be affected as much by post-Labor Day demand, although the fall is historically a good time for travel to Europe, as prices for airfare and vacation packages tend to drop.

If you don’t plan on flying, or will need a car once you arrive at your destination, it’s good to know that rental car prices follow a similar trend to airfares. Prices are lower during the month of September than they are during the summer and December holidays. Hotwire reports that, “Every year, car rental companies bolster their fleets by buying new cars in anticipation for the peak summer travel season. When demand drops after the summer travel season ends, it takes several weeks before excess cars are sold off or defleeted.” The lessening demand from consumers, combined with a large supply of rental cars, equals cheaper rates during the first few weeks in September.

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