What You Can Do If Your Flight Price Drops After You've Already Booked

The cost of flight tickets can be eye-watering, especially during holiday periods and for long-haul journeys. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to save your travel budget funds. You might use credit card rewards to keep costs down, or maybe you closely follow the "Goldilocks window" to get the cheapest flights.

However, sometimes careful planning and price-cutting hacks just aren't enough to get the best rate. Airfare can be volatile thanks to dynamic pricing and other factors, and the price you snagged when you hit the "book now" button might not be the best deal in the end.

If you have a hunch that you overpaid for your flight, keep an eye on prices after you've booked or, better yet, set up Google Flights alerts so you'll be notified if your fare fluctuates. If your flight price drops after you've secured your seats, you may be able to swap the fare you paid for the cheaper one being advertised.

Some flights are automatically eligible for refunds

If you just booked your flight and noticed a price drop, you might be in luck. The U.S. Department of Transportation requires airlines to grant refunds on reservations within the first 24 hours of booking. In other words, if you book a U.S. flight and notice a better fare within 24 hours, you have the right to cancel your flight and receive a refund without being charged a fee, and then you can rebook your trip at the lower price. Note that the ticket must have been purchased directly through the air carrier and booked at least a week before departure to qualify.

Some booking websites also offer best-price guarantees, though you might have to pay for the service. For example, Expedia offers its paid Price Drop Protection program where customers can receive a refund on eligible flights that dip in cost. Similarly, Google Flights offers reimbursement for some flight price drops, and, unlike the Expedia offer, the perk comes free of charge.

Keep in mind that class and ticket type can also determine if you're able to receive refunds for price changes or booking modifications. Many major airlines offer free changes on premium and upgraded classes, while basic economy fliers often have to pay.

How to nab a better price after you've already booked your seats

Swapping one airfare for a lower one isn't always straightforward, and the process can look different depending on your airline. Start by reading over the terms of your booking and what options you have when it comes to cancellations and modifications. If you're hoping to keep the same flight and your air carrier offers full refunds (either in the form of money or flight credits), it's often best to cancel your flight and start over with a new reservation. However, be sure to complete your new booking before canceling the old one to avoid losing your spot on the flight.

If your airline offers free modifications but charges for cancellations, consider swapping your flight for one at a different time or on a different day. It might mean changing your travel schedule, but the savings could be worth it. Note, however, that you may need to contact your airline to reprice your ticket and receive the refund you're entitled to.

Finally, don't get scared off by a fee for changing or canceling your trip. If the flight cost is significantly lower than the fare you originally secured, the fee may be worth paying, especially if you're already nearing the departure date and fares are unlikely to dip any lower.