Finding the best flight deals or the best time to book a flight is an art, but there is also some science, or, at the very least, economics, involved. There are only two unbreakable rules: Flights go on sale roughly a year in advance, and prices fluctuate frequently between then and takeoff.
As a general guideline, book plane tickets far in advance, as rates skyrocket in the days leading up to the journey, taking advantage of any last-minute travelers who have no choice but to pay more.
However, numerous factors influence the dynamic pricing patterns of plane tickets, including the destination and time of year.
Is There a Cheaper Day to Book Flights?
In certain circumstances, you can plan just a few weeks ahead, while in others, you should book months ahead (for example, a trip during a major travel holiday when demand is strong).
Following the epidemic, airfares reached record highs in 2022. While the price is expected to remain high this year, the airfare tracking website Hopper anticipates a modest decrease.
The company blames the high prices on rising costs, surging demand, and limited availability in its Consumer Travel Index, QQ1 2023.
While airfare prices vary depending on when you book, flying midweek is likely to be less expensive than flying on weekends.
“Travelers who fly midweek, usually on Wednesday, can save an average of $56 per ticket on domestic airfare throughout the year,” according to Hopper data.
“Midweek savings spike over $60 per ticket during busy spring break and summer vacation months, while flying midweek over the holidays can save you $100 or more.”
The same is true for international travel: according to Hopper, a weeklong long-haul trip departing midweek costs $70 less than the identical flight departing on a weekend.
When to Book Flights for International Travel
Hey, here’s the scoop on booking flights for international adventures: It’s usually a smart move to lock in those tickets sooner rather than later.
About six months ahead is the sweet spot, as Expedia suggests. Now, the timing can change depending on where you’re headed. Here’s the lowdown from CheapAir.com:
Canada: Plan ahead 300 days to 3.5 months before your flight.
Mexico: Score deals 4.5 months to 1 month before takeoff.
The Caribbean: Aim for 5 months to 1.5 months prior to departure.
Central America: Book between 5 months and 2 months ahead.
South America: Find your window between 4.5 months and 1.5 months before your flight.
Europe: Plan a cozy 6.5 months to 1 month in advance.
Africa: Get set between 10 months and 2 months before your journey.
Oceania/South Pacific: Think ahead 10 to 9.5 months before takeoff.
Asia: Get in gear 10 months ahead of your flight.
Middle East: Book the trip between 10 months and a little under 2 months before you leave.
Remember, the early bird catches the deal. But the real secret sauce for snagging those awesome international flight prices is avoiding the high-traffic times.
Steer clear of summer and major holidays – oh, and don’t forget that includes holidays at your destination, not just your own!
When to Book Flights for Domestic Travel
So, here’s the lowdown from a study by CheapAir.com in 2022: If you’re looking to snag the best deal on plane tickets for a trip within your own country, it’s usually a sweet spot to lock in your tickets around 76 days before you’re set to jet off.
But hey, don’t take that 76 days as a golden rule – it’s just an average. So, you don’t need to set an alarm exactly 76 days before your adventure.
CheapAir.com’s study found that the prime time to hit that “book now” button isn’t a narrow window.
It’s more like a nice, roomy space stretching from 127 days to 21 days before your flight. That’s actually around a month longer than their 2021 study suggested.
Here’s the scoop for trips within your own country: Ticket prices start off a bit high when they’re first put up for grabs, usually about a year ahead of the flight.
But, those prices do a slow and steady downward dance, reaching their lowest point in the prime booking window (yep, that’s the sweet spot, roughly four months to three weeks before takeoff).
After that, if you’re thinking of playing the last-minute card, brace yourself for a big jump in the ticket cost.
When to Book Flights for Summer Travel
Summer is generally one of the busiest travel seasons, therefore there aren’t many deals to be had on flights during that season.
Expedia and Hopper forecast that throughout the season, airfare will reach its highest price. Flights for summer travel should ideally be booked as early as possible, ideally at least six months in advance.
Expedia and Hopper do point out that costs are likely to peak in June and fall off in July and August, so book your trip at the end of the summer to get the best airfare prices.
When to Book Flights for Holiday Travel
The optimum time to book flights for Thanksgiving and Christmas is typically in September, so if you think it’s a little early to be considering holiday vacation, you’d be generally correct.
However, it never hurts to get a head start on watching flight prices so you can reserve as soon as you see a deal you like.
And so, if you travel sporadically throughout the year, we have a quick tip for you: Consider booking your vacation flights now, or whenever you come across a good offer.
But make sure to select a fare that will provide you a credit if you need to cancel (usually speaking, that means staying away from the basic economy).
In this manner, you can cancel your initial ticket and use the credit to book the less expensive route if prices decrease between the time of booking and September. The only drawback is that you’ll still have some credit, but you can use it to reward yourself with a flight in the future.
Other Ways to Save When Booking for Flights
We all want the cheapest flights possible, which is why this guide is here: to help you find the cheapest days to fly and the best airfare bargains.
Comparison shopping is quite beneficial, as is knowing when to book tickets and the ideal days to fly. There are other ways to save, so let’s get started.
Shop on Tuesday
Best day to shop: The best day to purchase a flight in the United States is usually Tuesday around 3 p.m. Eastern time.
We’ve already described why Tuesday is the best day to shop for plane tickets.
Since many airlines issue weekly promotions early on Tuesday, prompting competitor airlines to match prices, Tuesday is a wonderful day to locate a lot of offers.
But don’t panic; there are offers available on other days as well.
Don’t Shop too Early or too Late
Careful! If you buy too soon, you may end up paying too much. If you wait too long, you may end up paying far too much. These shopping windows are usually the best places to get good discounts.
- US tickets: Purchase between three months and thirty days before departure.
- International tickets: Purchase between 5 and 12 months before departure.
- Major times to fly: If you wish to fly during major holidays like Christmas, New Year’s, and Thanksgiving, or during peak-season months like June, July, and August, you may usually save money by purchasing tickets two months in advance.
- Shop current deals: If you can go whenever you want and fly whenever you want, shop whenever you want because you never know when an airline’s prices will decrease unexpectedly. FareCompare has the most recent bargains.
Always Compare Airfare
Always compare airfares, according to the golden rule of shopping.
Some people fail to do this because they ‘know’ their chosen airline always provides the greatest deal, but no airline does, not Spirit, not Southwest, not every time on every route.
If you do not compare, you may pay too much, and why pay a cent more than necessary?
Set a FareCompare airfare alert and we’ll do the rest. Signing up for an alert takes less than a second, and the bargains are delivered right to your inbox through email.
Then, if you find a fare you like, act quickly because the best prices don’t last long.
Cheapest Days to Fly
Even more, money can be saved by understanding the cheapest days of the week to fly. If you can’t find affordable days for your entire flight, book one leg, and you’ll still save money.
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday are often the cheapest days in the United States. Weekdays are frequently less expensive than weekends for overseas travel.
Fridays and Sundays are frequently more expensive, especially in the United States.
Fly when most people don’t want to, like at dawn, overnight, or during the lunch or dinner hour.
Fly the Cheapest Route
Non-stop flights are more convenient. However, connecting flights can sometimes offer better deals (not always, but frequently).
We’ve seen connecting flights on long journeys that were 50% less expensive than nonstop.
Before you swipe your credit card, always compare the cost of a nonstop trip to that of a connecting flight.
You must evaluate whether a lower price is worth the hassle of a longer travel day.
Book Group Travel One Ticket at a Time
This won’t always save you money, but it will on occasion, so it’s always worth a go.
When scheduling travel for two or more persons, book only one ticket at first since an airline reservation system quirk requires multiple tickets sold in a single transaction to be sold at the same price.
For example, if you require two tickets and the airline offers one for $100 and all others for $125, you will pay $125 for each.
However, if you buy the two tickets separately, you will get a lower price for one of them.
You may have heard that there is a good time to book airline tickets throughout the week. That, according to CheapAir.com, is fiction. The day and time of the week have little effect on ticket costs, but to be safe and acquire it at a lower price, try to get it early.
Frequently Asked Questions
What day of the week is the cheapest time to book a flight?
Data reveal that, nearly universally, travelers who traveled on Wednesdays rather than at the start of the week saved this amount on domestic flights.
How early should you buy a plane ticket?
According to a CheapAir.com 2022 study, the ideal time to buy aircraft tickets for domestic travel is roughly 76 days before your departure date.
What time of day are flights cheapest?
This is the best time to book a flight to the United States. More specifically, around 15:00 eastern time on Tuesday.
Do flight prices go down on Tuesday?
The most affordable days to fly domestically are Tuesdays and Wednesdays. If you’re going domestically, Tuesday or Wednesday are usually the cheapest days to fly. Tuesday pricing for economy tickets is approximately 24% less expensive than Sundays.
Are airline tickets cheaper at midnight?
It all depends on the route you’re flying, for example.” That means there isn’t a single optimal time to book a trip during the day—and it’s a fallacy that booking flights at midnight is the cheapest. You can save 5% on domestic flights and 10% on foreign flights.