Although 79% of domestic trips are taken for leisure purposes, that doesn’t mean they’re all fun and games. Even booking your flight can be overwhelming — particularly if you aren’t sure whether you’re getting a good deal on air travel. Should you book now and risk paying too much, or wait a little while longer and potentially miss out on the ideal flight? This handy guide will give you a better idea of some general rules to follow.
There are differing opinions as to what day you should buy your tickets and which days of the week are best for travel. Because computers use complicated algorithms to determine air travel prices, it’s hard to say precisely which days have the lowest fares. Flash sales, though, are determined by actual human beings — and these often occur mid-week. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are typically thought to be days that offer the least expensive tickets.
That said, the difference won’t be that much. On average, you might save $10 when flying domestically. The days of your trip’s departure and return will probably matter even more than the day on which you book your tickets. Avoiding the most crowded travel days (Friday and Sunday) will save you a bit, for example.
The time in which your trip takes place — and the amount of time between when you book and when you depart — will have a much more substantial impact on the price you pay for air travel. The winter holidays and spring vacations make for busier travel seasons. That’s why you’ll need to really focus on booking trips during this period well in advance. For travel within the U.S., booking your ticket 70 days in advance, on average, often yields the best results. But this can vary a bit depending on the time of year you’ll take your trip.
If you’re traveling in spring, booking in advance pays off: 90 days in advance is seen as the ideal time to make flight reservations during this time of year. When traveling in fall or winter, 60-70 days ahead of time is usually ideal. Just keep in mind that traveling during the holidays is going to be pricier no matter when you book. And while summer is actually the most popular season for traveling (with July being the most popular), August and September usually offer some very reasonable airfares. You can afford to wait a little longer, booking your trip 45-50 days in advance during this season.
One 2018 airfare study divided airfare booking periods into “zones,” ranging from very early to very late. Determining the ideal zone for your needs can help you plan and potentially save.
The “first dibs” period takes place 169-319 days in advance of travel. You will definitely pay more when you book during this period since carriers adjust for better deals later on. But buying this early can have its advantages, as you’ll have a better choice of flights and seats. This can be a plus if you’re traveling with a larger group and need to get on a specific flight altogether.
The “peace of mind” zone takes place 122-168 days in advance and is ideal for those who experience anxiety when booking tickets. You’ll save money (though not as much as you could) and it can allow you to alleviate worries and lock in your flights with plenty of options available.
The “prime booking window” is the zone to aim for when you want to save on air travel. Book 21-121 days in advance and you’ll likely be able to snag a bargain. You may not always get the best flight times or seats, but thrifty consumers will like the promise of a deal. Beyond the 20-day mark, you’re taking a gamble. Though deals can be found here and there, fares will be higher and availability will be scarce.
We hope this comprehensive guide will help you save on your next vacation. Consider flying out from our airport to ensure your trip goes smoothly from start to finish.