“The airlines will have these somewhat irrational sales,” said George Hobica, founder of the airfare deals site Airfarewatchdog.com. “No one knows why they lower the prices.” Recently, for instance, the deal-hunters at Airfarewatchdog spotted a $179 round-trip fare from BWI Marshall to Denver and San Diego. We came across some hard-to-resist fares for less than $200 to Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles from Reagan National. No, they didn’t last long.
How to stay on top of those fire sales? Twitter is one way. Airfarewatchdog (@airfarewatchdog) tweets specific fares, as do other sites, such as Travelzoo (@travelzoo).
There’s also the art of the weekend fare, booked a week or two in advance and mostly requiring a Saturday departure and a Monday or Tuesday return. But even those tickets have gone up in price, Hobica said. And the restrictions and last-minute nature make them less than ideal for lots of travelers.
Still, there are plenty of destinations you can fly to from Washington without breaking the bank and without pressure-driven, spur-of-the-moment bookings. A number of resources on the Web can help steer you to the best prices out of a given airport. We like Airfarewatchdog’s departure city search, Travelzoo’s best fares list, Kayak Explore and FareCompare’s deal finder.
For the past few months, we’ve kept tabs on airfares from the three Washington-area airports and pulled together a list of destinations where you can consistently fly for less than $200. Most are in the eastern half of the country. A few may not seem like obvious vacation spots. But who ever said that being frugal didn’t require an open mind?
Albany, N.Y. Use the New York state capital as a jumping-off point for exploring the scenic Hudson River Valley, the beauty of which inspired its own school of painting.
Boston. Competition by carriers such as Southwest and JetBlue keeps fares to Beantown well below $200. Take in Revolutionary War history, or head to Cape Cod.
Buffalo. A surprising destination for architecture buffs. Also a great gateway to southern Ontario.
Charleston, S.C. Its recent addition to the Southwest network has made this charmer a relatively cheap, feasible weekend destination.
Charlotte. NASCAR meets the New South in an unconventional convention city.
Cleveland. A cultural gem in the Rust Belt frequently featured in United’s weekend fare specials. The West Side Market celebrates its centennial this year.
Columbus, Ohio. We’d fly here for Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream alone. You can eat and drink your way through the rest of North Market, too.