Editor’s note: This story was researched and written before the current COVID-19 pandemic. While we look forward to traveling again soon, we recognize that the most important thing we can all do right now is to stay home. For the most current information about COVID-19, check the CDC website.
The final days of winter and the long-awaited start of spring make up arguably the most underrated months of the year to find an airfare deal. As college kids and families flock to price-gouged beach destinations for spring break, virtually everywhere else is in shoulder season during March, April, and May. While the Northern Hemisphere is thawing out, pick from a slew of airfare deals before the sky-high summer pricing kicks in.
Thanks to new air routes and changing travel trends, some far-flung locales are surprisingly cheap compared to how much the journey cost just last year. Here are the cheapest places to fly for a spring vacation in 2020, according to airfare experts and pricing data.
The Cheapest Places to Fly for a Spring Vacation in 2020
Editor’s note: All prices are the average for one round-trip flight unless otherwise specified. Special thanks to Skyscanner , KAYAK , Priceline , Scott’s Cheap Flights , CheapOAir , and Airfarewatchdog (SmarterTravel’s sister site) for sharing pricing data and commentary.
Honeymoon or bucket-list beach adventure on your mind? Spring pricing data from KAYAK shows that the Maldives are one of the cheapest places to fly this spring, with the months before monsoon season (which begins in May) showing a price drop of 19 percent from the same period last year. That means average airfare prices for the three-month period are $957—down from $1,178 in spring 2020. So you can spend that extra money on an overwater bungalow of your dreams.
One of SmarterTravel’s trending destinations to watch in 2020, Montana is more accessible than ever thanks to new flight routes direct to Glacier National Park and nearby Yellowstone. “This season more carriers are taking to the Big Sky and introducing new routes to the great state of Montana,” Airfarewatchdog’s Ricky Radka says. “From JetBlue’s newly introduced seasonal service (starting April 28) to Bozeman from New York and Boston, to increased Billings connections from American and Alaska, domestic carriers are looking to strike it rich in the Treasure State this year.”
Carriers include low-cost options Sun Country and Frontier, and JetBlue also has $230 roundtrip fares from the East Coast during May, according to Radka. Airfarewatchdog data shows that fares are down about 25 percent, falling to $340 round-trip.
One of the rarer opportunities to snag a deal to the opposite hemisphere for a taste of a different season (in this case, fall), South Africa is on sale for safari seekers thanks to fare wars and a cash-strapped national airline.
“Flights to South Africa have been more competitive than ever since United launched the first nonstop flight between Newark and Cape Town at the end of 2019,” says Daniel Burnham, flight searcher at Scott’s Cheap Flights. Burnham notes that South African Airways’ recent financial struggles have motivated foreign airlines to step in and fill demand, and the deals are striking.
“We’ve been seeing excellent fares in the $400s round-trip out of New York and the rest of the country averaging in the $500s and low $600s round-trip, often on Qatar Airways, a perennial contender for best airline in the world in most rankings,” Burnham says.
As for average airfare prices, Airfarewatchdog concurs that both Johannesburg and Cape Town are seeing price drops of about $200 compared to the same period last year: The average U.S. flight to Cape Town is down to $888 during the three-month period, and Johannesburg’s average is $900.
The Dominican Republic
A tropical paradise that’s usually tourist-slammed and price gouged in spring, the Dominican Republic is courting visitors since losing lots of tourism to last year’s negative press surrounding a slew of tourist incidents that had airlines refunding tickets.
KAYAK pricing data shows that three of its cheapest places to fly internationally this spring are in the D.R.: Santo Domingo, Santiago de los Caballeros, and Puerto Plata fares are all showing around 10 percent drops in median airfare compared to last year. Airfarewatchdog’s numbers go one further, showing that Punta Cana airfares are slashed as much as 50 percent, with this year’s deals dipping as low as $386 on average—as opposed to last year’s $662 overall average.
If Nordic cuisine and spring skiing are more your pace, don’t overlook little-known Finland as one of this spring’s cheapest places to fly. Airfares to Finland’s waterfront capital are down 27 percent for March and 34 percent for April, according to Skyscanner, hitting a $742 round-trip average before spiking up dramatically again in May, when high season begins. Helsinki is a good jumping-off point for other parts of northern Europe thanks to its two-hour (by ferry) proximity to Tallinn, Estonia, and its overnight ferry options to Stockholm, Sweden.
A flight deal I personally took advantage of this spring, Athens flights are on sale for both March (20 percent down) and April (10 percent down), according to Skyscanner. The abundant sub-$800 averages, on both low-fare carriers like Norwegian and established airlines like Emirates and Turkish Air, are relatively new for Americans. The Greek capital seems to be turning into one of Europe’s newest cheap-flight hubs, and shouldn’t be overlooked in favor of the pricey islands if you’re up for renting a car and heading for the underrated Athenian Riviera, a mere 30 minutes from the Acropolis.
Plus, if you opt for a free stopover with Turkish Air, then the airline will even pay for your hotel. Airfarewatchdog’s Radka says of the new airline competition: “Norwegian is bringing back last year’s successful New York (JFK) to Athens route again starting in March, and Emirates’ fifth-freedom flight from Newark is still going strong, giving the NYC area an upscale alternative.”
For Midwest and West Coast travelers, Turkish and Lufthansa (along with other Star Alliance partners) also target traditional Delta and American strongholds like Los Angeles, Dallas, and Seattle for Athens deals. “You don’t want to be stuck hiking up the Acropolis during sweltering summer heat either, so springtime is a better bet for a big fat Greek holiday,” Radka says.
Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota
Minnesota’s short-lived spring is worth the affordable, short flight for anyone eager to peruse the Twin Cities’ burgeoning beer, music, and food scenes. CheapOair says average airfares to Minneapolis/St. Paul are down 22 percent for the period to $373, and Airfarewatchdog data concurs, showing that deals are dipping as low as $254 round-trip.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Another opportunity to swap out spring for a Southern Hemisphere fall, South America flights via Buenos Aires make Argentina by far one of the cheapest places to fly for a spring vacation. According to Skyscanner, the average round-trip fare is down a whopping 28 percent for May—making it the search site’s top international deal for that month. The average round-trip price for the three-month period is $686. May in Argentina means 60-degree weather and shoulder-season wine tasting with fewer crowds.
Tel Aviv, Israel
Spring is one of the best times to visit the Middle East, both for perfect weather and to avoid the summer crowds. But it’s also a surprisingly affordable time to go: March and May airfares to Tel Aviv, Israel, have dipped by 29 percent compared to last year, according to Priceline, and April fares are also down by a solid 17 percent.
For a locally guided experience beyond Tel Aviv that won’t break the bank, look to Intrepid Travel’s itineraries covering both Israel and the Palestinian Territories through food, culture, and historic sites, plus a stop at the Dead Sea (pictured above).
At 17.5 hours, the world’s fourth longest flight takes off this April from Chicago to Brisbane—and it’s already making for strong savings. Skyscanner data shows Brisbane airfares are down 16 percent to $885 for March and 11 to 14 percent for April and May, respectively. And the savings aren’t only from Chicago. Qantas also began Brisbane/San Francisco nonstop flights as of February 2020.
“Flights to Australia are routinely on sale from other carriers too: Air New Zealand, Fiji Airways, and Air Canada regularly drop prices on flights Down Under with many major cities falling under the $1,000 round-trip price point,” Radka says. “And when you do touch down in Bris Vegas in spring, you’ll be entering early fall for Australia … which is still 75 degrees through April and May.”
For more ideas, see The Top Travel Destinations for 2020.
Traveling? Consider These Carry-On Options
More from SmarterTravel:
- The 12 Best Places to Travel in 2020
- 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, and finds the cheapest places to fly each season in this updating story. Follow her adventures on Instagram @shanmcmahon.