The Best Time to Buy Plane Tickets Is 70 Days in Advance, Study Says
Now that the worst of the COVID pandemic is behind us, more and more people are traveling and trying to see the world. However, that tends to drive up the cost of airfares. Inflation certainly doesn’t help, either.
Travel is good for the soul but not for the wallet. If you’re not ready to see a drastic dip in your bank account balance, you’ve got to be proactive to get the best deal on flights.
When Is the Best Time to Buy Plane Tickets?
The sweet spot to snag the best deals on airfare is between 46 and 164 days — that’s 1½ to 5½ months — before your departure date, according to a recent CheapAir study of nearly a billion domestic flights.
That’s longer than it used to be.
If you really want to nail down the cheapest day to travel, CheapAir found that travelers who bought their plane tickets an average of 70 days (about 2½ months) in advance of their flight scored the lowest price.
If you wait until the last minute to nail down your travel plans, you’ll end up paying for it.
Booking one to two weeks from your departure date can cost about $65 more on average. Waiting until the week of your trip might cost you about $125 more.
While planning ahead is best, you can get penalized for buying airfare too early. For example, booking six to 10 months in advance may result in a better selection of seats and better opportunity to snag a specific flight time, but you’ll pay more on average than if you wait until 5½ months in advance.
No matter the time of year, flying out on Tuesdays or Wednesdays will usually result in better deals. Avoid Sundays, which tend to be the most expensive day of the week for flights.
Why Do Airline Ticket Prices Fluctuate Throughout the Year?
The price of plane tickets tends to go up and down throughout the year based on seasonal demand.
Airfare tends to be the highest in November and December correlating to the spike in travel for the holidays. Flights are also costly in June, July and August as many people plan vacations during the summer.
January and February are generally the cheapest months to travel, as demand is lower.
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The Cost of Domestic Flights vs. International Flights
Domestic flight prices tend to be cheaper than the price of international travel, but costs will vary based on where you’re traveling to and what time of the year you plan to travel.
Tuesdays and Wednesdays tend to be the cheapest days for domestic and international flights.
CheapAir’s 2023 Study on International Flights found the best times to book flights for the following destinations:
Canada: 3-10 months before your departure date
Mexico: 1.5-10 months before your travel date
The Caribbean: 2-10 months ahead of time
Europe: 1.5-10 months before your travel date
Asia: 4.5-10 months before your travel date
6 Tips for Finding the Best Airline Prices
1. Use Search Tools
Airfare search tools compile flight information from multiple sources in one place, so you know what options are available and which airlines are offering the cheapest flights.
Some of the best search engines for flights include:
- Google Flights
- Scott’s Cheap Flights
2. Set Alerts
Several airfare search engines let you set up notifications so you’re alerted when prices go down on flights to a desired destination. Use this feature to start tracking flight prices months ahead of time.
3. Book From Discount Airlines
Budget airlines — like Spirit, Frontier and Allegiant — often offer less expensive flights than major commercial airlines. Just be aware of the trade-offs, such as extra fees, fewer flight routes and flying out of smaller, more remote airports.
4. Book Group Travel Separately
Airlines sometimes charge a premium for selecting your seat. You could wind up paying extra if you want to sit next to your traveling companions.
If you’re fine sitting next to strangers during your flight, you may be able to save money by booking group travel separately.
5. Watch Out for Additional Fees
When booking travel, the cost you initially see may be less than what you’ll actually pay. Make sure you’re factoring in the cost of extras — like baggage, seat selection or travel insurance — when budgeting for your trip.
6. Fly on Weekdays or on a Holiday
Tuesdays and Wednesdays are usually the cheapest days to fly. While flying during the holiday season is often expensive, you’ll typically see the lowest fares on the actual day of the holiday — such as Christmas Day or Thanksgiving Day.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Aim to buy airline tickets about seven weeks to five months in advance of your upcoming trip.
If you’re counting down the days, the best time to book your travel for a domestic flight within the U.S. is between 46 and 164 days before your departure. CheapAir’s 2023 annual study on domestic travel found that this window is when you’ll see the lowest flight prices.
CheapAir’s study says it doesn’t really matter what day of the week you go online to purchase your airfare. Ticket prices tend to only vary by about $1 depending on the weekday. What has the most significance is what day of the week you plan to leave or return.
Wednesday is nearly $100 cheaper than the most expensive day to fly, which is Sunday. Booking on a Tuesday will save you $94 on average compared to Sunday flights. You’ll also tend to have more choice for flights midweek than on the weekend.
According to CheapAir’s study, you should book your flights 26 days in advance when traveling in the winter, 87 days in advance when traveling in the spring, 182 days in advance when traveling in the summer and 49 days in advance when traveling in the fall.
Nicole Dow is a former senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Senior Writer Mike Brassfield contributed to this article.