Here’s an amazing statistic: On average, the difference between booking an airline ticket at its cheapest fare and at its most expensive is $236. For some trips, that’s equivalent to a one-way ticket, and maybe more. The problem is, the wide variance in prices has a lot to do with when you buy your ticket.
According to CheapAir.com, which monitored more than 4 million flights in 2013 over a booking period ranging form 320 days in advance to one day in advance, the best booking window varies depending on several factors.
Are you flying domestic or international?
The best time to book domestic U.S. flights is, on average, 54 days in advance. Though, the prime window can range between 104 days in advance to 29 days in advance, with customers paying $33 more per ticket before 104 days, and $73 more per ticket after 29 days.
The best time to book international flights from the U.S. (especially summer flights to Europe) is, on average, 319 days in advance. It’s best, however, to fly after August 23, when rates begin dropping. Late October is primetime for saving money on flights to Europe. Caribbean flights booked before April 24 (that is, between the new year and April 24) will also cost you a pretty penny.
Don’t Ho, ho, hold on a minute
The bottom line with booking holiday flights is BOOK EARLY. CheapAir.com found that for both Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year travel, it’s best to book for the least expensive airfare is June. That’s right: June! So if you have family members still debating plans in October, consider just hosting Christmas at your house.
Other strategies for finding cheap fares
- Be indirect. Everyone loves direct flights, but often you’ll save money if you just take a flight with a layover or two.
- Avoid Friday & Sunday. The cheapest days of the week to fly are Tuesday and Wednesday. After that it’s Monday, Thursday, Saturday. Book Friday and Sunday flights only when necessary.
- Book last minute. Sign up for offers as airlines will often send out deals for the upcoming weekend on flights they couldn’t fill. Usually fly Friday night/anytime Saturday and return Monday or Tuesday.
- Book on Tuesday, 3PM ET. Farecompare.com found this was the best time to book domestic air travel.
- Fly out in the early morning. Next best time is during and after lunch, or around dinner.
Do you have any travel tips? Share them in the comments below or send us an email using the address: [email protected].
(Featured Photo: Chuck Patch via Flickr)