The final days of winter and the long-awaited start of spring make up arguably the most underrated months of the year to find a high-value airfare steal: March, April, and May. While college kids and families flock to popular price-gouged beach destinations for spring break, virtually everywhere else is in shoulder season. As the Northern Hemisphere is thawing out, a slew of airfare deals arise in advance of sky-high summer pricing.
Thanks to new air routes and changing travel trends, some particularly far-flung locales are surprisingly cheap compared to how much the journey cost just last year. Here are the cheapest places to fly for spring 2019 according to airfare experts, plus when to travel for the best deal.
The Cheapest Places to Fly Right Now
Editors’ Note: All prices are the average for one round-trip flight unless otherwise specified. Special thanks to Skyscanner, CheapOair, Booking.com, and Airfarewatchdog (SmarterTravel’s sister site) for sharing pricing data and commentary.
New Zealand and Australia
The day-long flight Down Under doesn’t need to cost you thousands. Queenstown, New Zealand; and Perth, Australia, are both nearing $1,000 airfare averages for the first time in years (and maybe ever, for some places) according to multiple flight search sites. Skyscanner data shows that Queenstown’s airfare averages are down 16 percent for the three-month period, to $1,096. CheapOair echoes that trend for Perth, which is down a whopping 30 percent compared to the past two years’ average, to $1,080.
“Australia is routinely on sale nowadays, mostly to the big markets like Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, but we do occasionally see other destinations in the mix like Perth or Adelaide,” Airfarewatchdog analyst Ricky Radka says. “These are generally from major airports, but systemwide sales have popped up more and more, meaning smaller airports like Cleveland and Austin can take advantage of them now, too.”
Boston and Nantucket, Massachusetts
Places with four distinct seasons are best visited in shoulder season, when you can still enjoy the outdoors but avoid the summer airfare spike. Get even more for your money by pairing two neighboring four-season destinations together during the affordable and milder spring months. For example, Airfarewatchdog data shows April airfare to Boston has dropped 40 percent since 2017. And according to Booking.com, Boston hotel lodging is down 52 percent this spring break season when you visit from March 18 through 24. Skyscanner data shows that Nantucket flights are also 15 percent lower—about $50 off—this time of year, so you can experience the history-rich scenery of both Boston and coastal New England without the crowds.
The best time of year to visit North Africa is also a surprisingly affordable time to fly there. Morocco is new to the usual prospects of the cheapest places to fly in spring, possibly thanks to its rising popularity opening up new routes.
“Morocco has been dropping in price lately, mostly Casablanca, but some Marrakech routes too,” Airfarewatchdog’s Radka says. Airfarewatchdog data for this year and 2017 show that May routes to Marrakech have dropped 32 percent to a $535 roundtrip average, and April routes to Casablanca are down about 15 percent to $750.
“[Deals] are usually in the $500 range on Iberia airlines, and New York (JFK) to Casablanca is currently $479 for last-minute March travel. Chicago, Boston, and D.C. also often have reasonable prices.” The price drops might be thanks in part to the fact that Royal Air Maroc is launching service to Boston this summer, creating some newfound competition from the East Coast.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Hopping a last-minute flight to Malaysia might not sound affordable, but airfare to bustling Kuala Lumpur is down a shocking 30 percent to an $834 average for March, April, and May, according to CheapOair data. Airfarewatchdog data also shows that the lowest yearly fares reliably occur through March, April, and May. Jetting off to Malaysia’s capital for skyscrapers, cave temples, and connections to nearby Singapore could now cost you as little as a flight to Europe.
If you’re in the mood to ring in spring with chocolate, waffles, and beer, Brussels is one of the cheapest places to fly before the sky-high airfares of summer hit Europe. The Belgian city’s airfare average is down 29 percent for the period compared to last year, now at $663 according to CheapOair. Airfarewatchdog data concurs that March, April, and May are the cheapest time of the year to go, and shows that tickets can cost as low as $400 round-trip for the period.
Costa Rica and Guatemala
Central America’s affordable cities are attracting cheap airfare to match good on-the-ground prices this year thanks to expanding routes from Mexican low-cost carrier Volaris. The carrier has launched several new U.S. routes to Central America in the past year, including flights to Costa Rica and Guatemala. Volaris tells me its one-way fares start at $210, and Airfarewatchdog data shows average prices have dropped to about the same, signaling some welcome competition.
San Jose, Costa Rica, is one of the cheapest places to fly in April, with routes slashed 30 percent since last year to hit a $300 round-trip average, according to Airfarewatchdog. May airfare to Guatemala City’s Spanish colonial architecture and nearby Mayan ruins have also dropped drastically, hitting a round-trip average of $323—down 17 percent from the same period last year, according to Airfarewatchdog. Volaris’ San Jose flights also operate from Washington, D.C.’s Dulles, and its new Guatemala City flights include Los Angeles’ LAX.
Another European getaway that’s at its cheapest before summer high season brings peak prices, Berlin is one of the cheapest places to fly in March and April 2019. Dropping 40 percent from the same period last year, average round-trip Berlin airfares are around $500 for both months according to Airfarewatchdog, and down 27 percent from two years ago according to CheapOair. Throughout the year, this trendy German hub is also surprisingly affordable once you get there, with cheap meals and high-value hotel rates that are easily under $100 per night.
Palm Springs, California
A domestic hub that’s seeing new air deals thanks to increased competition created by JetBlue’s new seasonal routes, Palm Springs is on sale with a caveat—for low prices, avoid visiting in April during the world-famous Coachella music festival. Instead, time a visit for March or May, when rates are down more than 50 percent compared to last year, with round-trip averages in the low $200s.
“Palm Springs has been getting some great deals from airlines competing with Frontier and JetBlue,” Airfarewatchdog’s Radka tells me. “Chicago to Palm Springs is as low as $49 round-trip on Frontier, and $97 on American and United. JetBlue’s JFK service is routinely around $200 round-trip.”
Beijing and Hong Kong
Airfare to China has dropped drastically over the past year thanks to route expansions by carriers like Hong Kong Airlines and Air Canada. Airfarewatchdog data shows that on top of the regular savings, March and April are the cheapest time of year to go to Beijing, with fares as low as $600 before they jump back up to $1,000 in May. CheapOair data shows Beijing’s average airfare for the period is $731, 28 percent lower than it has been in the past two years.
The same is true of Hong Kong, according to Airfarewatchdog. “Air Canada has discount fares to China and Hong Kong on the regular; at the moment Hong Kong flights have dropped a lot,” Radka tells me. “Detroit and New York to HKG are slightly above $520 round-trip, but with these fares, it’s best to book with a third-party site like Expedia or Orbitz, as they usually offer lower prices than the official Air Canada website.”
According to Skyscanner, one of the cheapest places to fly this time of year is Guadalajara, Mexico, which is seeing seasonal airfare drop 14 percent, bringing it down to a $367 average. This Jalisco city is a hidden gem, and is a viable alternative to tourist-frequented Mexico City, which has seen a rise in average airfare over the past year thanks to an increase in visitors. Guadalajara is Mexico’s third-busiest airport and the operational hub of low-cost carrier Volaris. The airline is currently listing spring one-way fares for as low as $64 from Los Angeles and $113 from Chicago.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 8 Affordable Trips to Take in 2019
- 7 Airfare Analysts Weigh in on When to Book a Flight
- 7 Expert Airplane Seat Hacks to Boost Comfort on Long Flights
SmarterTravel’s Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her adventures to the cheapest places to fly on Instagram @shanmcmahon.