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Cheat Sheet for The Best Time To Buy Airline Tickets

Did you know economy fares change an average of 61 times from when they’re posted until the departure date? That’s a lot of fluctuation! Plus, even on the same flight, there could an array of different prices based on class, luggage allowances, seat selection and more. The people that end up on a flight have probably paid vastly different prices – and it’s a good idea to be one of the ones who got the best deal.

There are a lot of different factors that go into the best time to buy an airline ticket, including the day of the week, time of day, number of days in advance and when you plan on actually traveling. We’ll break it all down for you so that even first-time flyers are sure to get a great deal:

cheat sheet that outlines the best times to buy airline tickets

What’s the Best Day to Buy Airline Tickets?

Airlines usually announce ticket sales and deals on Tuesdays, making that the best day to buy airline tickets. There’s even one specific Tuesday where flights are cheapest: the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Most travelers have booked their Christmas flights already, and demand drops significantly around this time, causing airlines to drop prices.

This doesn’t mean you should only search for flights on Tuesdays – some data has found that price differences aren’t that significant. It’s always best to set up a flight price monitor for your desired route that will notify you when prices drop.

While the best day to buy airline tickets may be Tuesday, the best time to fly is usually midweek. If you’re traveling far, leave on a Wednesday or Thursday and return on a Monday or Tuesday for the cheapest flight prices. This is especially true for international flights. If you’re booking a shorter flight, leave on Saturday and come back on Tuesday or Wednesday.

What’s the Best Time to Book a Flight?

The data generally agrees on this one: The best time of day to book a flight is around 3:00 pm Eastern time (noon Pacific time).

You should also consider the best time of year to book a flight. Data shows that flight prices are highest in June, probably because families are thinking about summer vacations. This is also why they’re lowest in August and September – families are done traveling and thinking about back to school, so booking then can save you a little cash.

In general, traveling in the summer is more expensive than other times of the year, and that’s true for flights as well. Flying in September and October is generally a cheap option, because of those vacationers we previously mentioned. As expected, December is the most expensive month, thanks to the holidays. On the other hand, January is one of the best times to book a flight and to travel – sinking demand after the holidays plus cold weather in many locations causes airlines to lower their prices dramatically.

As for the best time of day to travel, the answer is always the early morning. Booking an early morning flight is not only cheaper but can also help you avoid flight delays and cancellations.

Not a morning person? Flights around dinner time are also a good bet for the budget-conscious, but you may encounter delays that build up throughout the day.

How Far in Advance Can You Book a Flight?

If you do plan on traveling in the summer, you can save money by following the tips above and also booking your flight far enough in advance to avoid the higher ticket prices. But how far in advance can you book a flight? And when is it the cheapest?

Data varies on how far ahead you’ll need to book a flight to get the best price. But in general, when flight prices drop, one thing is always true: For the cheapest flights, you’ll need to plan ahead. Most data shows flight prices are the lowest 90 to 120 days out from the date you plan on traveling. Fares stay pretty low until 20 to 30 days before your flight, so you shouldn’t be too worried if you don’t know your travel plans 4 months from now. However, if you wait until the very last minute – anything two weeks or less from the flight date – expect to pay more.

The best time to buy airline tickets also varies by the season you plan to travel. Summer is prime travel time, and flights are cheapest at 100 days in advance. Travel slows in the fall, so you’ll only need to plan 70 days in advance to get the best prices.

Finally, the best time to buy airline tickets varies with your priorities. We’re focused on the cheapest flights here, but if you’re in search of the best seat selection or some other criteria, the best time could vary. If you want a certain flight day, time or seat, you’ll want to book 200 days in advance.

Not quite that good at planning? Booking 120 to 200 days in advance will still give you plenty of options. Then you have the best time to book a flight for deals, 90 to 120 days ahead of time. By the time you get to two weeks, prices are skyrocketing as airlines take advantage of last-minute travelers.

How Else Can I Save Money on Flights?

Man using credit card to buy airline tickets on a smartphone

You know the cheapest days of the week to fly and the best times – but sometimes you just can’t make those days or times work. Or there may even be cheaper flights to be found on different days or times. How can you really be sure you’re getting the best deal?

One top tip is to sign up for alerts. Many smartphone apps do this, and you can also sign up with your preferred airline. They not only tell you when your flight price drops but use past data to estimate when it will be at its lowest. Another tip is to carry a specific airline’s credit card. Even if you don’t fly often, points can add up, and they can often be transferred to another airline within the same airline alliance. Credit card members can also get you free bags, seat selection and more – perks that are getting harder to come by.

In the end, your best time to buy airline tickets depends on your priorities, but if getting the best deal is your goal, we’ll sum it up for you: Buy your ticket on a Tuesday at 3:00 pm, 90 to 120 days ahead of time, or in January. Fly in the morning, mid-week, anytime other than summer. And sign up for alerts to let you know when flight prices drop. With all these tips combined, you’ll be flying on the cheap in no time.

And remember, if something goes awry during your travels, be sure to use TravelRefund to claim flight compensation. We’re here to make sure you get the money you deserve without the hassle. Contact us today to check if you’re eligible.