The Best Time to Buy Airline Tickets
Travelers often swap theories on the right—and wrong—time to book a flight. We’ve heard it all: The lowest fares are on Tuesdays at 3 p.m. Eastern. (No, Wednesday at 1 a.m. is the best time to buy!) You need to book at least two months before you fly. (No, you should look for a deal and fly at the last minute!) Websites like Kayak suggest when you should buy, or if you should wait—like we’re all trading stocks—but there’s no guarantee. And according to George Hobica of AirfareWatchdog, “There is no secret time. You need to look four times a day—minimum—every day of the week, as far in advance as you can.”
But a study by Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Corporation says that based on billions (yes, billions) of passenger flights from January 1, 2016, through October 24, 2016, the best day to buy airline tickets is Sunday, especially if you’re booking more than 21 days in advance. Weekends are generally a good time to buy, but not Fridays, since there’s an uptick then in business travel bookings. Do this and you “can save more than 30 percent to Europe and 17 percent on travel domestically,” says the study. It’s also worth noting that no matter when you book your spot at JFK Discount Parking, there is never a right or wrong time and you will always find amazing savings when you park with the pros.
“For today’s traveler, this confluence of circumstances—more planes, lower prices, more destinations—is exceptional,” Greg Schulze, senior VP of Expedia’s commercial strategy and services, said in the 2017 Global Air Travel Outlook report. “It means that the barriers to booking a dream trip are lowered. It also means that everyday travel—flights to see the family, work trips—are likely to be easier to book at a lower price.”
Here’s what else you should know about buying airline tickets.
If you’re going to Europe…
As previously reported by Traveler‘s Katherine LaGrave, the optimal lead time for pulling the trigger on that trip to Europe is 99 days, according to CheapAir.com’s Annual Airfare Study, which crunched the numbers on 921 million airfares. Given that summer is the busiest travel season, and rates will be typically higher than they are for winter travel, the difference between the best and worst-priced days is $250.
If you know what season you want to fly…
Adjusting when you buy based on the season matters, too. According to the same CheapAir study, the best time to buy winter flights, other than the peak holiday travel dates around Christmas and New Years, is 54 days in advance; for spring flights, you should book 75 days in advance. Summer? 76. Fall: 47, though the one exception is the week of Thanksgiving (more on that later). On average, these were the days in advance that yielded the lowest fares to destinations during each season.
If you’re buying for the holidays…
Prices usually spike around the holidays, but data from Skyscanner shows that there are still deals to be had: According to the global travel search engine, savings for U.S. holiday travel are available no more than four weeks prior to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.
If you’re looking for the cheapest days to fly…
Generally speaking, Tuesdays and Wednesdays have the best fares for domestic flights, due to the fact that there’s less competition between business travelers and other fliers.