It's a familiar – and frustrating – experience: Plan a trip and check plane tickets every few days, waiting for the perfect price to appear. Finding the right time to buy is not a trivial matter.
The cost of airline tickets fluctuates constantly. In fact, during the typical 11 month period, a flight is listed, the price changes every four and a half days on average, according to the CheapAir.com annual flight ticket study.
Highlights for booking a flight
So, what is the best time to book? It depends where and when you plan to travel. Although there is no safe bet, we offer tips to help you.
Domestic flights (inland to the United States)
When: Between 21 and 105 days in advance; in particular, 54 days in advance.
Why: Airlines tend to dry up flights first, because market demand is not yet very strong, says Patrick Surry, Data Manager at Hopper, an airline ticket analysis application. After that, it's a simple economy: if demand is low, prices go down. If it's high, prices go up. Wait too long, seats fill up and costs increase. "So, there's usually that ideal zone – two, three, four months in advance – depending on where you're going," Surry says.
What to expect: Spikes and cost drops still occur, but your best chance of getting a ticket at the least expensive end lies in this window, according to the study CheapAir. It may be that you have fewer seats and routes to choose from than when the flight was first announced, but the competition, and therefore the sales, are likely to heat up.
When: Between 59 and 119 days in advance, depending on the region. Here is a breakdown of average best times:
- Canada: 59 days in advance
- Mexico and Central America: 61 days in advance
- Caribbean: 76 days in advance
- South America: 81 days in advance
- South Pacific: 89 days in advance
- Asia: 90 days in advance
- Europe: 99 days in advance
- Africa and the Middle East: 119 days in advance
Why: The main booking window for international travel is farther away than for domestic trips, in part because these flights are usually more expensive. The more expensive the purchase, the earlier the typical person plans, Surry says. If seats are seized early, this leaves a longer period for airlines to raise prices for the remaining offer. Another explanation is that international tariffs are particularly subject to seasonal variations. "So buying the lowest fare in high season as soon as the dates are firm is usually a wise course of action," said Robert Mann, president of RW Mann & Company, an analysis and consulting firm. the airline industry, in an email.
What to expect: Frequent, sometimes drastic, changes in the cost of tickets.
Best days of the week to book
When: Wednesday and Thursday
Why: Computers normally control the prices of plane tickets using complex algorithms, making it difficult to predict the exact day when fares are the lowest. However, humans decide when to plan for flash sales – short-term contracts that usually last a day or two – and these often appear during the week, Surry says. This could explain why more destinations – in domestic and international markets – are seeing their lowest rates on Wednesdays and Thursdays than any other day, according to a study by Hopper.
What to expect: Tickets could be cheaper – but not much. According to Hopper, the average savings between the best and the worst days of the week are about $ 10 for domestic markets and about $ 30 for international markets.
"You will save a lot more by booking more in advance, in general, than by choosing a specific day of the week," Surry says.
Note that prices vary depending on the days of the week the departure and return are.
Anticipating seasonal anomalies
The above guidelines will not apply in all cases. Provide an additional buffer room for peak periods, such as weekends and holidays. For less desirable periods, such as the cold winter months, you can put off a little longer.
When to buy (for domestic flights):
- Winter: 54 days in advance
- Spring: 75 days in advance
- Summer: 76 days in advance
- Autumn: 47 days in advance
Why: Feeling a motive? That's true – it's another case of supply and demand. Seats sell faster during busy seasons. The same goes for international travel.
What to expect: Buying tickets the best day against the worst day of each season brings in more than $ 200 in savings, according to CheapAir. However, there are exceptions in every season. With high travel times, ticket costs are relatively static. For example, domestic airline tickets are expected to remain stable around $ 300 round trip for Thanksgiving, according to data from Skyscanner, a travel search site.
The maximum savings for Christmas and New Year's Eve are three to seven weeks before each holiday.
More ways to save
Counting days is not always the best way to get a cheap flight. Next time you're looking for an agreement, try these tips:
- Use a flight rate comparison tool. Apps and websites like Hopper, Skyscanner and Airfarewatchdog automatically track rates and can tell you when to buy a ticket that fits your route.
- See the social networks. Follow travel companies and airlines on sites like Twitter and Facebook for up-to-date sales announcements.
- Ask for a price adjustment. "If you find that the price goes down as a result of your decision to buy, ask the carrier to match it.Some will do it, and the Southwest and Alaska often do it without charge. change, "says Mann. However, airlines often issue refunds in the form of travel credit.
- Be flexible. Keeping your options open can help you save money. Try to move dates or take off from different airports.
Reissued with permission. Original here.
Photo of the aircraft window via Shutterstock
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