Flights during the summertime and holidays are always expensive.
Have you ever heard that booking a flight on a certain day of the week will yield the cheapest results? Perhaps you’re thinking of a cousin who claims he found a great deal when he checked on airfare prices at 12:01 a.m. on a Wednesday or a friend who swears by setting a reminder on their phone for 1 p.m. on a Thursday when they’re shopping for flights.
While there is no shortage of rumors (and “studies”) out there, here’s what airfare experts say about how timing influences airfare prices so you can maximize airfare savings.
Is there a day that’s cheaper than others to book a flight?
There used to be some truth to the idea that certain days were better for finding flight deals. However, research shows that this is more of a myth nowadays.
For example, the booking app Hopper found that this old-school way of thinking applied to less than 2% of routes, yielding savings of just 6%.
“There is no one day or ‘golden rule’ about when to book that applies to all travel,” said Hayley Berg, Hopper’s lead economist. Hopper relies on eight years of data and 70 trillion flight prices to recommend the best time to book specific routes and dates.
“There’s a common myth that ‘booking on a Tuesday’ will guarantee a traveler the best price,” she continued. “The reality is prices change so often and depend on the route, the travel dates, etc., that there isn’t one day that guarantees you the best price.”
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For domestic trips, start monitoring prices three to four months before your departure date and expect to book one to two months in advance. For international trips, begin scanning prices six to seven months in advance and expect to book three to five months in advance.
Additionally, you might find airfare prices fluctuate Monday through Friday, according to Bob Harrell, an airfare consultant at Harrell Associates who analyzes airline pricing.
Airlines look at customer demand and monitor booking trends to decide whether to open or close certain types of fares and whether to raise or lower existing fares, per Harrell.
So, how can you use this information to your advantage when buying airline tickets?
Try using a price monitoring tool to get real-time updates. Hopper recommends travelers use their Flight Watch tool to start tracking the price of their desired route before booking; it will then notify you when prices are at the lowest for your trip.
Whether or not you use a tool, remember to start monitoring flight prices three to four months in advance and expect to book one to two months in advance.
“For most domestic trips, airfare will fall between one and three months before your departure before rising rapidly in the last three to four weeks before takeoff,” Berg said. “This means there is a sweet spot (three to four months before departure) where airlines will be offering lower prices on average and are more likely to offer promotional discounts and ultra-low fares.”
For international trips, you generally need to book further in advance. Start gauging flight prices six to seven months in advance, and plan on booking three to five months ahead of travel.
“When you’re traveling internationally, planning ahead is key to getting the cheapest airfare,” Berg said. “Travelers often book international flights too far in advance or too last minute, overpaying significantly for their tickets.”
What’s the best day to travel?
Although airfare prices fluctuate based on when you book, midweek travel is generally cheaper than flying on weekends.
“Travelers who fly midweek, usually Wednesday, can save an average of $56 per ticket on domestic airfare throughout the year,” Berg said. “Midweek savings spike over $60 per ticket during busy spring break and summer vacation months while flying midweek over the holidays can save you $100 or more.”
The same logic applies to international travel — a weeklong, long-haul trip originating midweek averages $70 less than the same trip originating on a weekend, according to Hopper.
When to book holiday travel
Best time to book flights for Christmas 2023
The cheapest holiday airfare deals were available in September and October, according to CheapAir.com, which analyzes airfare data.
“While holiday travel days were more accommodating this year, airfare is still on the rise, so it is in travelers’ best interest to plan ahead and book early,” the website previously said.
Similarly, Google’s 2022 flight booking trends reported that average flight prices around Christmas were lowest 71 days before departure.
If you need to book a last-minute holiday flight, consider using Google Flights‘ new feature. It allows travelers to see when prices have typically been the lowest so they can book their desired dates and destinations without paying more than necessary.
Best time to book flights for New Year’s Eve 2023
Similar to Christmas flights, if you haven’t already booked your flights for New Year’s Eve, you’re likely going to pay more than you would have if you booked earlier.
“Airfare for New Year’s Eve has risen 6% in the last 2 weeks alone, so it’s time to book your getaways,” Berg said on Dec. 4. “Prices for last-minute NYE trips are averaging $322 for domestic round trips, up 3% from this time last year.”
Even so, not all hope is lost. There are still some flight deals available per Hopper data, including flights to Atlanta, Orlando, Nashville and Fort Lauderdale, all for less than $250 round trip. Internationally, Hopper is seeing flights to Montreal; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Nassau, Bahamas for less than $400.
While there is no magical time or day to book airfare for the best prices, your best bet is to fly midweek, specifically on Wednesdays, for both domestic and international travel. Flying over the weekend usually comes at a significant price premium.
Ultimately, the economics of airfare look a lot like that of any other commodity, Harrell said.
“Airline pricing is the story of supply and demand,” he said.
Remember, this advice also applies to award fares. If you are using airline miles, it’s never too soon to start checking and booking.