Finding the lowest air fare for your next vacation

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Knowing when to purchase air fare to get the best rate has always been a tricky thing - but not anymore. (WPVI)

Knowing when to purchase air fare to get the best rate has always been a tricky thing - but not anymore.

If you don't use one of these free travel hack websites or apps, you are probably paying too much for airfare.

First up is Hopper.

It's a mobile app only with a terrific interface. It's easy to use and claims to get you a cheaper flight 95 percent of the time.

Watch what happens when we check flights from PHL to LAX departing July 1st, returning July 5th. The American Airlines website says its lowest fare for a nonstop flight is $544 dollars.

Hopper gets us a nonstop round-trip flight for $412 on Spirit Airlines - a $132-dollar savings!

Just enter the airports you're flying in and out of and then Hopper shows a calendar with prices. We can immediately see leaving July 1st will cost $100 dollars more than leaving a day before or a day after.

Select July 1st and July 5th anyway - Hopper shows the lowest fares and we can book directly through the app.

But Hopper says wait for a better price and we could save as much as $26 more.

Its price predictor also shows we should book BEFORE June 21st when prices are expected to climb at least $165 dollars.

Even better, Hopper says its bunny will notify us when prices drop and before they rise.

Other apps and websites also let you compare airfare and set price alerts to score the cheapest fare.

Skyscanner also finds us the cheap Spirit Airlines flight - and on Skyscanner it shows as $397 dollars instead of Hopper's $412.

Kayak shows that Spirit flight as $407 dollars and right here, Kayak also advises we WATCH this fare instead of buying now, suggesting prices will likely fall within 7 days.

Do beware, though. If you want a particular flight, you should look at the number of seats available before deciding to wait to make sure there isn't a big risk of all the seats selling out.

You can save even more on airfare if you're flexible with your dates and if you're willing to fly in or out of a nearby airport.

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