Looking Forward to Your Next Vacation? Save on Air Travel With These Tips
If you’ve ever suspected that it’s more expensive to fly on certain days of the week than others, your hunch is right.
The cheapest days to fly are… drumroll… Tuesday and Wednesday. Fewer people want to fly on those days because they don’t fit the typical Monday-through-Friday work schedule. So, airlines discount tickets on those days slightly.
That’s the short answer. But there’s much more to consider when booking a plane ticket so you’re sure to get the best deal.
Cheapest Days to Fly, Explained
A 2019 study by the travel site CheapAir.com found what every study before it had: You’ll pay less for airfare if you fly midweek.
In some cases, nearly $85 less. That’s compared with the most expensive day of the week, Sunday, with Friday coming in second. Again, most people travel over the weekend when they’re off work and the kids are out of school. If you’re willing to fly on less convenient days, you’ll save a few bucks.
And for the record, it doesn’t matter when you actually purchase a ticket. Many travel experts agree there’s no meaningful difference in price based on the day you book.
When to Buy: Aim for the Prime Booking Window
Another factor that affects whether you get a bargain on airfare or get hosed is how far out you book your ticket.
The sweet spot is the prime booking window, and it falls between three weeks and four months before your trip. CheapAir.com says fares in this zone are within 5% of their lowest point, and they tend to stay consistent without spiking.
But say you like to plan things way in advance. Booking a ticket more than six months out will cost you — possibly $50 more than in the prime window — but the tradeoff is you’ll have lots of flight options to choose from.
On the other hand, there’s rarely any reward for waiting until the last minute. Booking less than two weeks in advance will cost you.
There Is a Season
So with your sights squarely set on the prime booking window, bear in mind this advice about traveling at different times of the year.
If you’ve ever flown home for the holidays, you know this to be true: Winter is the most expensive season to travel. The average price of a domestic ticket during the winter, according to CheapAir.com, is $433. Ouch.
The upside? You get to fight your way through extra-crowded airports. Oh, wait…
You can ease the sting of popular winter travel a little by booking about 94 days in advance, which is, on average, the best time to buy in winter.
Spraaang Break, y’all. Oodles of families and college kids take a vacay when school is out for a week in March and April. Beat them all to better fares by flying midweek. Average best time to buy: 84 days before your trip.
Think late in the season. We know, school just got out and you’re ready to escape. But July is the most expensive month of the year to fly, while late August and September harbor some serious deals. Try to book about 99 days out.
Airfare in the fall makes us want to frolic in some autumn leaves!
Fall is shoulder season — the time between peak and off-peak — for many destinations when fewer people in general are traveling. (Yeah, the term doesn’t really make sense to us either.)
There are deals to be had — as long as you avoid Thanksgiving week; 69 days out is the time to book.
We don’t just mean that it’s cheaper to fly to Phoenix than Dubai. (Although — pro tip — it is.)
CheapAir.com is also here for us on this important question: How far out you should book tickets to different areas of the world? Here’s the breakdown:
- Canada: 59 days in advance
- Mexico & Central America: 61 days
- Caribbean: 76 days
- South America: 81 days
- Middle East/Africa: 119 days
- Asia/Pacific: 90 days
- Europe: 99 days
Finally — and this has less to do with the cheapest days to fly but everything to do with saving money — don’t overlook alternate airports. Smaller carriers serve regional airports and often offer fares that seem like they’re from a bygone era. $55 to Orlando? Hello!
Use this handy list of lesser known airports outside big cities and check for cheaper fares before you book.
Molly Moorhead is a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder.