Hi Guys! The other day I was booking flights to visit my brother’s family over the 4th of July. Since it’s a holiday weekend and it’s less than a month away I realized I probably wasn’t going to find cheap airfare. And the prices confirmed it! #IShouldKnowBetter
It got me thinking – when is the best time to book flights these days? Lately I’ve only been booking flights for work which puts more emphasis on timing than price, so I’m a little out of the game.
I thought it’d be helpful for me (and hopefully for you!) to do a little research to see what everyone is saying about the best time to buy flights these days. I also included a few other booking tips I know. Hopefully this will help you out when you book your next flight!
1. All About the Timing – I remember back in the day when you could wait until two weeks out and find deals on your flight. That couldn’t be less true today. The airlines have cut back on flights and people are packed into the planes like sardines. And don’t even get me started on finding overhead bin space! Isn’t flying glamorous? So what are we to do?
Cheapair.com sorted through flight data and determined that 54 days out is the best time to book your domestic flight. So if you know you have a trip coming up, put a note on your calendar to buy your flight 7-8 weeks in advance.
For summer flights to Europe studies show that 319 days in advance is the optimum time, but I’ve found that 6 months out is usually okay. You don’t want to book too early as the airlines can’t accurately forecast demand yet and the airlines tend to be more conservative with their pricing. You can expect summer flights to Europe to be more expensive than in the spring and fall, so May and September can be a good time to find deals if that timing works for you.
2. The Day of the Week Matters – I’ve always been told that airlines post discounted flights on Tuesday and Wednesday, but this has become more of an urban myth these days. That said, certain days are typically better to fly on if you want the lowest prices. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday are the slowest air travel days and I usually try to book on one of those if I can. Friday and Sunday are usually the busiest travel days and therefore have the most expensive flights.
3. Clear your Cookies – Supposedly some airline websites take note if you have been checking the prices on a particular flight and decide not to show you the lowest price or may even raise it! Those sneaky little… You can combat this by clearing the cookies in your browser to ensure you are seeing the lowest prices they have available.
4. Search for 1 Ticket at a Time – Another sneaky thing I’ve heard the airlines do is show lower prices for 1 person and higher prices if you were looking for multiple tickets. It’s worth searching for the price of 1 person rather than the whole family first to see if they are priced the same.
5. Set Alerts – You can set alerts on kayak.com or airfarewatchdog.com. When the price drops below your threshold you will get an email alert.
6. Book straight from the Carrier – If you are looking at flights on Kayak, Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia, etc. and find a flight you want to book I would recommend going to the actual carrier’s website and see if they have a lower fare or the same fare. I prefer to book straight from the carrier’s website to avoid any extra fees, or loopholes that these booking sites might use if there are problems with your flight. Most carriers match the prices on any of those sites so you can always call if you don’t see the same prices online.
7. Bidding – This has always been outside my comfort zone, but I know some people like to bid for their flight or hotel prices on priceline and hotwire. If that’s your style I think you can find some great deals!
8. Yapta – Have you heard of Yapta? If you enter in your flight number after you’ve purchased it they let you know if the price goes down. Many airlines will honor the new price. I entered my Delta flight information in for my trip on the 4th and the site noted that Delta only offers a refund if it drops below $200 of what I paid. This obviously doesn’t seem very likely so I’m not sure how great this website is for domestic flights, but it could be a good method if you booked a flight to Europe or Asia.
9. Rewards – Credit card miles and airline loyalty programs can be a great source for a free flight. Even if you book a flight on an airline you don’t usually fly just sign up for their program, you never know if you’ll use them again.
10. Be Flexible – This is a no brainer, but if you are flexible about where you are going this can be an opportunity to find great deals. Checking flights to nearby airports can also save some money if you are open to this.
11. Use 2 Different Airlines – Booking a one-way on two different airlines has come in handy for me especially when flying to Florida to visit my parents.
12. Throwaway Ticketing – Last but not least, have you heard of throwaway ticketing? It’s when someone looks for a one way ticket to a destination with generally cheaper flights that have a connection in the the city you actually want to travel to. This means you get off in the connection city and skip the second leg of the trip. This can be tricky to find and isn’t favored by airlines, but it could help you find something affordable if you are desperate.
Have you tried any of these? Do you have any other secrets to finding the cheapest flight? I’d love to know about them!