If you’re a big traveler, you’re probably no stranger to the age old question: When is the best time to purchase flights? If you ask around, you’ll hear a variety of answers. Some say Tuesday at 1pm is the ideal time. Others guarantee you’ll get the lowest fare if you book exactly 22 days out from your trip. Travel experts like The Points Guy, Sky Scanner and Airfare Watchdog assure consumers that, in reality, there’s no method to the madness that is finding the cheapest flights.
But, while you may not be able to find the cheapest flights every single time following one particular protocol, there are definitely times that you are more likely to find the best deals. And, if you ask us, it’s worth trying because if you succeed, you get to enjoy the feeling of knowing you won the game. Plus, you get to travel somewhere awesome for an affordable price.
To push the odds of finding the cheapest flight in your favor, all you need is a little bit of industry knowledge and persistence. Before we share our knowledge, a quick heads up: things are always changing in the airline industry, so the techniques that score a cheap flight this year might not work in two years. So, the best thing you can be is vigilant in staying on top of the trends.
As for the latest trends, here’s what happening:
What’s the best day of the week to book?
A recent study by Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Corporation concluded that the best day to buy airline tickets is Sunday, especially if you’re booking more than 21 days in advance. The study is one of the largest the industry has ever conducted. It took into consideration over 2 billion passenger flights from January 1, 2016 through October 24, 2016 to reach its conclusions. As such, its findings are far and away the most dependable source we have when it comes to understanding flight purchasing trends.
The study also confirmed that it’s better to buy flights on weekends, with the exception of Friday due to an increased amount of business travel bookings. By booking on Saturday or Sunday, consumers can save more than 30 percent on international flights and almost 20 percent on domestic travel.
How far in advance should I book?
How far in advance you book matters just as much as when you book. To date, the rule has been the further in advance you book, the cheaper the ticket. That’s still true—and more important than ever.
According to the Airlines Reporting Corporation, purchasing airplane tickets 21 days or more in advance is still the best way to secure the cheapest flight—especially for trips outside of the United States. In the case of international travel, flights booked more than three weeks in advance have been 30 percent cheaper than flights booked closer to the departure date. So if you’re thinking of embarking on an international vacation, the old saying holds true: plan early for the best results.
The experts at Sky Scanner take the recommendation even further, saying it’s best to book a domestic flight at least seven weeks out and eighteen weeks for an international flight. According to Sky Scanner, last-minute fares are a thing of the past thanks to increased competition, which has created lower prices for consumers and more full flights for airlines.
Do these rules vary by destination?
Want to know if there’s a best time to buy flights to certain destinations? There’s an answer for that as well! Expedia took a look at their data and found that, in general, the best month to secure a low fare from North America to Southeast Asia is January. For Europe, it’s September. And these recommendations vary when you are taking off from different destinations. So if you’re planning travel to a certain part of the world, be sure to check their report to gauge the best time to book.
The Bottom Line
No matter where you’re going or when you’re headed there, the best rule of thumb is to search for flights often and to book early. Airlines change flight prices up to 50 times a day, so the cheapest ticket will go to the person who refreshes the results multiple times a day. And don’t wait for last minute fares if you can help it!
Before heading off on your trip, make sure you set yourself up with a comprehensive travel insurance plan as well. Every day, flights are canceled or delayed and baggage and belongings are lost. A comprehensive travel insurance plan protects you against these costs, even if you’re only traveling domestically. Check out our Travel Insurance 101 guide to get the lowdown on the best insurance plans for different types of travel.