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Here’s How to Score the Cheapest Plane Tickets for Every Season
Have big plans to travel this year?
Whether you’re thinking about a sunshine-filled summer vacation or a quick trip to see family over the holidays, you’re probably also thinking about how much those plane tickets are going to cost you.
But with constant fluctuations in airline ticket prices, the process can be confusing — and hardly anything is more frustrating than pulling the trigger on such a big purchase only to see prices for that exact flight drop by $100 (or more!) just a few weeks — or even days — later.
But fear not. (Or at least slightly less.)
A new study published by CheapAir.com has revealed the best times to purchase domestic airline tickets to get the best deal possible, no matter where you’re headed.
The Best Times to Buy Plane Tickets in 2018
The study looked at more than 917 million airfares across more than 8,000 markets, and after some serious number crunching, offered up the following insights.
The ‘Prime Booking Window’
The “prime booking window” is between three weeks and four months before your trip. This is when fares dip the lowest, and also when you’ll see the most consistently cheap fares without price spikes.
Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute
Purchasing your tickets less than one week before your trip could cost you as much as $208 more than purchasing during the prime booking window (on average).
Weekdays Are Cheaper
It doesn’t really matter which day you shop for airline tickets (contrary to popular belief), but you’ll save money by purchasing flights that depart on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Sundays are the most expensive days to fly and could cost as much as $76 more per ticket.
Depending on which season you plan to travel in, you’ll want to purchase your tickets a different number of days in advance.
The best time to buy plane tickets for a summer vacation is, on average, 47 days in advance.
July is the most popular (and expensive) summer month to travel, while late summer (August and September) have the lowest fares.
Fall (aside from holiday weekends) is usually an inexpensive time to travel because it’s the off-season for many destinations.
The best time to buy tickets for a fall trip is, on average, 69 days in advance.
If you’re planning to travel over Thanksgiving week, you should buy your tickets early — meaning about three months in advance.
For nonholiday winter travel, the best time to buy is, on average, 62 days in advance.
The prime booking window is 21 to 100 days in advance, and this is when you’ll want to purchase your holiday travel tickets. (Earlier in this window is probably better, though.)
Although it’s late in the season for great deals for travel in spring 2018, you can still plan in advance for next year.
Spring breaks cover much of March and April, so airfare tends to spike during these months.
The best time to buy for a springtime trip is, on average, 90 days in advance.
Have a Plan and a Budget
Still, CheapAir.com notes that these are suggested guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules.
The best thing you can do is have a plan and a budget so you can confidently buy when you see a low price.
Shop around at the beginning of the prime booking window to see what price ranges you’re working with, and then wait until closer to the ideal number of days in advance for that season. As long as you’re within the prime booking window, it’s probably safe to go ahead and make the purchase when you see a fare that wows you.
Either way, sooner is better. According to the study, the biggest mistake you can make is waiting until too close to your trip date to buy your tickets.
Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.