Planning Guide

When to book flights to get the lowest fares

  • Be Flexible
  • Airport Center
  • Popular Destinations
  • Winter Holidays Flights

It is not a secret that travelers usually pay a big premium when they book a flight last minute or too far in advance. So when is the best time to book a flight at the lowest fare?

According to the research conducted by airfare shopping engine CheapAir.com in 2013 fares for domestic flights were lowest 54 days in advance, but that is an average. CheapAir.com monitored fares for over 4 million flights in 2013 over a booking period from 1 to 320 days in advance. The research revealed that there is actually a prime booking window between 104 days and 29 days before departure when fares for U.S. flights are the cheapest. 

CheapAir.com also reported that travelers who booked the flight after the mentioned above window paid an average of $73 more per ticket, while those who booked prior to that period only $33 more per ticket. However, there are exceptions. Even though you are unlikely to get a deal by booking a flight 14 days or fewer in advance, you have good chances to save if you buy tickets for some flights more than 54 days before departure. 

When to Book Early

As flights to warm destinations tend to book up faster try to book early enough to get the best fares on domestic flights to the hottest destinations. This is especially true concerning international flights, flights during the holidays and during peak travel periods.

Flights to Popular Destinations.

If you plan a flight to some warm place, the sooner you book the better because flights will sell out pretty quickly. For example, the best time to buy flights to popular destinations in Florida, Arizona and California is 75 days in advance and 81 days for Las Vegas. And to get the cheapest flights to Hawaii, you need to book minimum 87 days before departure and even sooner if you are going to travel during Christmas time.

International Flights.

 If you plan a summer trip to Europe, you can get the lowest fares only if you book 319 days in advance. But to maximize your savings on trips to Europe consider traveling during the fall or spring instead of summer. According to survey conducted by FareCompare.com tickets on flights to Europe after May 16 increase 35% or more, then decrease to spring levels after August 23 and drop even more in late October. Also you will have to pay a premium for flights to the Caribbean before April 24.

Flights During the Holidays.

The most expensive tickets are on flights around Thanksgiving and Christmas so book the flights when they're at the cheapest, which is five months in advance of Thanksgiving flights and six months in advance of Christmas flights. If you can't make such long-tem plans, schedule the flights on holidays themselves which are the cheapest days to fly. In case you are going to visit a smaller city with limited service you also had better book early as flights will fill up quickly. The fewer the tickets available the more expensive the tickets become. 

More Strategies to Save

Monitor Fares.

Despite the fact that there is obvious prime booking period for most flights, fares do fluctuate. So it is a good strategy to check prices at least once a week to spot price drops. As soon as you see a deal, snatch it immediately because the price can increase again very quickly.

Be Flexible.

Naturally travelers pay more for convenience and non-stop flights or flights on certain days and during certain time frames cost higher. So it would be a good idea to check flights with connections, or flights that are early in the morning or late at night because they are usually much cheaper. Also, flights on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays tend to cost less as well. Consider using a flexible search option on travel booking sites to find the best fares.

Check Alternate Airports.

As there is more than one airport in most large cities, make sure you check the difference in fares for flights into all airports in and around the city. To your surprise you will discover that the price difference can be dramatic. In case you are going to arrive in a smaller city with just one airport, check whether there are cheaper flights available to other nearby cities. In this case find out how much it will cost to hire a car and make sure that the cost of car rental is cheaper that the price difference on the fares.

And even after you bought your ticket continue to keep track of your fare because most airlines and online travel agencies provide a rebate (usually in travel credits or vouchers) to customers if the price on your flight drops below what you paid. Keep in mind, though, that some airlines often charge pretty high fees for re-booking your flight to get a lower fare. So find out what the fee is before you actually decide to make a change.