Booking a cheap flight can be a lengthy and laborious process when you’re trying to beat the system. You can spend weeks (months?) waiting for price alerts from airfare watchers. There’s the old wive’s tale about how booking on Tuesday is cheapest even though that’s not the case anymore. You should always be using Incognito Mode when looking at flights because the booking sites share cookies and the rates they show you will go up over time. If you are taking international flights and have a connecting flight you can use the local cheap booking site (like the ‘Kayak.com of Finland’) and get cheaper local fares.
Those are just a few tips/tricks that people use to get cheaper fares but they don’t answer the question of specifically when you should book a flight to get the cheapest fare. Thankfully, the website Cheapair.com studied over 917 million flights to determine the absolute best times to book travel.
Here’s what they found for Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter:
When to Buy Spring Flights
• Exactly 3 months (90 days) from your travel date on average is the optimal time to buy airfare for spring air travel.
• Prime Booking Window is 46 – 122 days from travel. Because you have a larger window to get the best fares, buying early is not a gamble.
• The difference between the best and worst priced day is $263.
When to Buy Summer Flights
• The average best time to buy is 47 days, or about 1.5 months in advance.
• Prime Booking Window is 14 – 160 days (2 weeks to about 5 months) from travel.
• The difference between the best and worst priced days is $203
When to Buy Flights in the Fall
• If you’re traveling in the fall (excluding Thanksgiving), you can usually wait a bit longer to book air tickets and still not miss out on the good prices. The best time to buy is 69 days out, a little over 2 months in advance.
• Prime Booking Window is 21 – 100 days from travel.
• The difference between the best and worst priced days is $83, a number that’s not nearly as painful as waiting to buy your tickets for any other season.
When to Buy Winter Flights
• 62 days from your expected travel date is the best time to buy an affordable airline ticket in the winter months.
• Prime Booking Window is 21 – 110 days from travel.
• The difference between the best and worst priced day is $260 (via)
So now we have a pretty good idea of when to book flights but the data from this Cheapair.com study goes even deeper and tells us when to book flights and when to expect drastic price spikes. Zach Johnston over at UPROXX synthesized the finding even further:
Air tickets generally go on sale up to 10 months out. Between when they go up and the first 147 days, you should expect to pay a higher price that’s almost always on the decline. The next phase lasts for about 46 days and continues on the downward trend price-wise.
The next window of time is when you want to buy. The “Prime Booking Window” lasts 100 days — about four months to three weeks before departure. That’s a big window, we know. But around 70 days out from the departure date, the prices will bottom out and that’s when you should buy. (via)
They found that the best day to buy a flight was 54 days before your departure and to be honest this seems insane. Unless I’m booking an international flight I usually book 3 to 5 weeks out. I don’t know anyone who books flights nearly two full months in advance. This makes me think I’ve been missing out on some glorious world of cheap airfare that I can’t wait to be a part of.
There are a bunch of graphics as well as more data over on the Cheapair.com study and you can click here to read that study in full if you’re interested in learning more about the cheapest times to book flights.