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Is that Black Friday travel offer really a good deal?

iStock/Thiinkstock
iStock/Thiinkstock

Chances are good you are about to be overwhelmed with Black Friday deals.

There are discounts for electronics, jewelry and even airline tickets. But is that travel offer to Hawaii truly a good deal?

Here are some things to keep in mind when purchasing an airline ticket for a trip to brighten up the months ahead, according to FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney.

1. Black Friday deals do not necessarily show up on Black Friday

But you know that. Chances are your inbox is filled with Black Friday ads even though the big day — Friday, Nov. 24, the day after Thanksgiving — is still days away. But that’s the trend: Both Spirit and Southwest have advertised both pre-Black Friday and Black Friday sales in recent years, and I suspect it won’t be long before Black Friday morphs into Black Thanksgiving week or even month. But until then, keep an eye out for Black Friday deals (and Cyber Monday sales), and if you see one you like, here’s what to do.

2. Read the fine print

Many Black Friday deals are cheap because you can only use them on unpopular days or months to fly. Nothing wrong with that — just be sure you know all this before you start packing. In recent years, airlines have offered Black Friday deals that were only good for travel on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Others offered deals for off-peak periods such as mid-January, when kids are in school and many adults are just returning from holiday trips.

3. Some Black Friday offers aren’t very good deals

Black Friday deals used to sometimes be very special. You would see the occasional ad for 50 percent off fares, which helped airlines fill empty seats. But over the years, airlines perfected the art of controlling seating capacity so that they rarely, if ever, need to slash fares to fill planes. This doesn’t mean there aren’t any real Black Friday deals anymore, but smart shoppers want proof that a purported deal is really a good deal, which is why comparing airfares is a must. Back in 2015, for example, a friend spotted two different Black Friday sales that both featured flights from Washington, D.C. to Denver; one flight cost $69 one way, the other was $144 one way.

4. Great deals can come along anytime

You can find solid domestic deals nearly year-round if you don’t mind traveling on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday, which are usually the cheapest days to fly. You’ll find more cheap fares during off times such as early December and after the first week in January too. You won’t find deals, or not often, during peak seasons such as summer or during major holiday periods. But this is where technology can help. On my site and many others, you can set airfare alerts for specific trips you’d like to take. Then relax —  the deals come to you.

Finally, if you have your heart set on finding a Black Friday deal, stay alert to social media. Follow your favorite airlines and airfare search sites then, and get ready to pounce on a price you like. Some post-Thanksgiving Day sales only last a day; some just a few short hours.

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