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Shoulder season means bargains for fliers

As the summer winds down and the fall begins to unfold frequent fliers refer to the approaching period as "shoulder season," which is the small gap between the high prices of peak season and the low season. Thinkstock / The Forum

FARGO — Cooler weather signals a halt to the summer hustle and bustle, but it's also the favorite time of year for many bargain flyers. As the summer winds down and fall begins to unfold, frequent fliers refer to the approaching period as "shoulder season," the small gap between the high prices of peak season and the low season.

Mark SixelShoulder season also means lower costs, fewer crowds and more hotel and restaurant options. Mark Sixel, president and owner of Sixel Consulting Group, works with dozens of airports across the country, including Fargo's Hector International Airport.

"Summer is over because kids are back in school and travel is historically light in the fall," Sixel says.

Here's what Sixel has to say about navigating your way through the shoulder season of travel.

Q: Is it true that booking 54 days before the trip is the best time to book a flight?

A: Economy tickets purchased at least 21 days in advance for travel within North America are 31 percent cheaper than those purchased within three weeks of departure, and premium class tickets bought three weeks ahead of time save 27 percent, according to Airlines Reporting Corp.

Q: Does the day you purchase a ticket matter?

A: This is a difficult question to answer. Greg Schulz from Expedia says it's best to shop the weekend and beginning of the week, but always avoid Friday. That's a better reference.

Q: I've heard that Friday the 13th is a great time to buy a ticket. Is there any science behind that claim?

A: While I've never heard any science to this, it could be assume that the traveling public views this as a "jinxed" day to travel. So, flights are therefore cheaper because there is less demand.

Q: Is there one airline that you would recommend?

A: No. But, Fortune magazine ranks airlines by different categories and that is a better reference.

Q: Is it better to buy a ticket through a vendor (Expedia, Orbitz, etc.) or call the airline directly?

A: Personally, I always recommend purchasing a ticket directly through the airline, if at all possible. Searching for fares through online travel agencies and platforms can help you to price shop, but once you've completed the comparison, our frequent travelers tend to purchase directly through the carrier of choice.

Q: What is the cheapest time of day to fly?

A: Red-eyes.

Q: What hidden fees should you look for when flying?

A: Airline baggage fees—fees usually range between $25-$75 for the first bag. Be aware of overweight and oversized baggage fees too. A handful of low cost carriers now also charge for carry-on baggage. This practice is also common overseas. (Sixel also advises frequent travelers to watch out for pet, flight cancellation, snack and drink fees.)

Hillary Sorenson is a content coordinator for Forum Content Studios and staff contributor at She can be reached at (701) 451-5720.