5 Tips for How to Tell When a Southwest Sale Is Worthwhile

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5 Tips for How to Tell When a Southwest Sale Is Worthwhile

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Lyn blogs about Southwest at GotoTravelGal.com and has a free guide, “The Step-by-Step Guide to Earning the Southwest Companion Pass,” to help folks who want to earn what Emily and I believe is the best deal in travel, the Southwest Companion Pass.  

Because she follows Southwest so closely, I’ve asked her to share her advice on how to know which Southwest sales are good and which aren’t, because Southwest has a lot of them!

Lyn:   It seems Southwest has a sale at least every other week, but is it really a sale and are the fares really a good price?  It can be hard to tell!  

I watch Southwest almost daily, so I’ve developed a keen eye in determining what is and what isn’t good pricing.

5 Tips For How To Tell When A Southwest Sale Is Worthwhile
Is This a Good Sale or a Bad Sale? Read on for Tips to Figure It Out!

I’ll share strategies for picking the best Southwest fare sales!

Which Southwest Sales Are a Good Deal?

Link:   Southwest

Link:   Southwest Fare Sales

Here are my top tips to help you determine if a Southwest sale is worth using those valuable Southwest points and your hard-earned money.  Or not. 🙂

1.   Research Fares From Your Destination Over Time

The best way to know if a Southwest sale holds muster is to have an idea of what really is a good price from your home airport to destinations you frequent or that are on your wish list.

5 Tips For How To Tell When A Southwest Sale Is Worthwhile
Check the Low Fare Calendar Regularly to Learn the Lowest Points and Cash Prices for Your Favorite Routes

Check at least monthly to see what the going “points” price and “cash” price is for these cities using the Southwest Low Fare Calendar.  The calendar will show you the lowest fares over month period.  

Over time, you’ll get a feel for what the rock bottom prices are for your top destinations, and you’ll be able to tell if Southwest is offering you a true steal or just more of the same.

2.   Pricing of Less Than ~$79 for Longer Flights

While Southwest sales often have really low prices for flights between cities in close proximity, such as from Indianapolis to Chicago or from Dallas to Houston, that’s not necessarily an indicator of a good deal.  These flights are most always pretty cheap.

5 Tips For How To Tell When A Southwest Sale Is Worthwhile
Fares of Less Than $79 or ~4,000 Southwest Points One-Way Indicate a Good Sale

Instead, keep your eye on the flights that are for longer distances and not just the next city over.  Can you find a fare price less than $79 or 4,000 points one-way to a destination where you’d like to fly?  That’s usually a good deal.  

From Indianapolis, for example, which is my home airport, we can typically find prices below $59 or 3,500 Southwest points to New York City and Washington, DC, during a good sale.  When I see prices for those cities hit that mark, I know I’m likely looking at a decent sale.

To find the prices for a sale, click on the sale advertising on the Southwest fare sale page, then choose your departure city from the drop-down box to see the advertised fares.

5 Tips For How To Tell When A Southwest Sale Is Worthwhile
Choose Your Departure City From the Drop-Down Box on the Sale Page to See Advertised Fares

Note:   If your area is served by more than one airport, be sure to check fares for each airport separately.  For example, New York (Newark and JFK) or Washington, DC (Dulles or National).

3.   Check the Dates of Travel

Some Southwest sales are only for specific dates of travel, such as the winter holidays, weekend, spring or summer.  Be sure you check the sale details to see which flight dates are covered, so you’re not trying to book a summer ticket during a spring sale.

5 Tips For How To Tell When A Southwest Sale Is Worthwhile
Check to See What Dates of Travel Are Included in the Southwest Sale

And scroll down to the bottom of the fare sale page to see blackout dates or day of the week restrictions.  For example, many Southwest sales exclude travel on Fridays and Sundays, which makes it tricky to plan a cheap weekend getaway!

4.   Look for TV Ads

One of the hallmarks of a big Southwest sale is that they will shell out some big bucks for major television advertising.

5 Tips For How To Tell When A Southwest Sale Is Worthwhile
If You Start Seeing Southwest TV Commercials, There’s a Good Chance They’re Having a Great Sale

Last year around the Super Bowl, there were Southwest commercials aplenty advertising a “major sale.”  If you start to see Southwest ads show up during your favorite sporting events and TV shows, zip on over to Southwest.com and see what deals you can find.

5.   Time of Year

There are certain times of year that tend to lend themselves to good Southwest sales.  In 2015, I found the best deals in November and December for 2016 travel.  Last year, Southwest had a good sale in early June with some surprisingly low fares, and this year, January and February have proven to have some good prices.

Hopper, a mobile app that predicts and analyzes airfare, says that average airfares for all airlines tend to hit their lowest in October and January.  Summer is typically the worst time to book travel, offering the fewest sales.

5 Tips For How To Tell When A Southwest Sale Is Worthwhile
Planning a Winter Getaway to the Tropics? You’ll Likely Find the Cheapest Fares in October and January

My advice is to book your flights as early as you can, knowing that with Southwest you can always cancel and re-book with no penalty.  Keep in mind that if you pay with cash,  Southwest will only issue you a travel credit, good for 1 year, versus fully reimbursing you.

If you book with points, your Southwest points are credited right back to your Southwest Rapid Rewards account, another perk of booking with points!

Even if the sale is not the best one you’ve ever seen, it’s always better to book during a sale than when there’s no sale going on.  Prices may not be at their lowest, but they will be lower than on non-sale days.  Again, you can always book the flight, knowing you can cancel or change with no penalty should a better deal emerge.

Bottom Line  

Southwest runs a lot of sales!  And they’re NOT always the best deal.

To determine if you should book flights during a Southwest sale:

  • Do your research ahead of time to get a feel for good pricing to your destinations
  • Keep an eye out for longer flights priced at ~$79 or less
  • Consider the time of year and whether your travel dates or days of the week are included
  • Look out for good sales in October and January, the months where airfare is typically lowest
  • Watch for TV ads, which are a good indication of a better sale

Even if you don’t have firm plans, or aren’t sure it’s the best deal, you can book anyway and change or cancel your flight later without penalty if the fare drops or you change your mind.

Let me know if you have other strategies for finding the cheapest Southwest flights!

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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any ideas why southwest has no direct flight to fll

we need to go in oct and the prices are crazy tks

We are looking to book a flight for January but the pricing seems to be all over the place right now. I keep reading to wait until 3 months out of the trip to book for the cheapest flights, if I wait until the end of October, will there really be cheaper flights?

My daughter is turning 16. All she wants for her birthday is a trip to WDW with her family. We are looking at end of August 22-30 when’s the best time to book air travel? Thanks so much.

I just met the spending requirement for a SWA chase card. When will the bonus points (50,000) be credited? Can I go ahead and book a flight and then change the payment to points?

Million Mile Secrets

The bonus will usually post at the end of the statement you meet the minimum spending. But you can send Chase a secure message and they can give you a better idea on that.

You can’t book with cash and then switch the payment to points. But Southwest has no cancellation or change fees, so you can pay for a flight and then cancel and re-book it with points. But if the price changes you’ll pay more. On the other hand, if there is a fare sale and the price goes down you can save when you re-book too.

Great blog, really enjoy the insight and information. Thanks

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