Planning a trip, whether a weekend getaway or a 2 week-long trip abroad, is an exciting process. That is, until you go to book your flight. How do you know if you’re getting the best deal? When should you actually pull the trigger? It can easily make a pleasant experience into one that makes you sweat bullets.
Don’t worry, there are some practical steps you can take to ease your worry when searching for airline tickets. We’ll walk you through our best tips for finding cheap flights, including the best day to actually book it.
When is the best time to book a flight?
There are a lot of factors that influence airline ticket prices. In general, however, the best day to book a flight is on a Sunday. Research from Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Corporation for 2018 indicates that this is the day to find the best tickets for both domestic and international flights.
Does the day of the week really affect ticket prices?
Yes, it really does. The day you purchase your ticket can influence your final airfare cost quite heavily. For domestic flights, buying on a day other than a Sunday or a Saturday could result in a price increase between 8% and 27%.
The difference is even greater with international tickets, for which you can expect to pay 15% to a whopping 120% more when you book on a different day of the week. Clearly, you should definitely make the effort to book your flight on a weekend, especially if you’re traveling abroad.
What is the best time to buy airline tickets?
There’s a traveler’s myth going around that airlines like to send out online sale alerts on Monday nights, which then go into effect on Tuesday mornings. While this may be true from time to time, it’s not a consistent way of searching airfare deals. Plus, the Expedia/ARC report looked at prices for a full year, so the argument for booking on a Sunday takes into account any kind of last-minute sales.
If you’re thinking about a specific flight or want to start tracking prices, sign up for a flight monitoring email alert and be ready to buy when you see prices drop. That covers all your bases, especially if you have well over a month before your trip.
There are e-alert services that send results for all flights departing your home airport, or you could sign up for the specific carrier that flies out of your airport to the city you’re traveling to. By tracking prices in advance of your trip, you’ll have a better idea of what’s a good deal and what’s worth passing. Then you’ll also be the first to know about any Tuesday sales (or those happening on any other day of the week).
Plus, the same flight can fluctuate in price multiple times leading up to the date of departure. Start tracking early to understand the average and then you can jump on a great opportunity when it arises.
What’s the most expensive day to book a flight?
The answer to this question is Friday. If you’re going to book a flight, it’s best to do it on any other day of the week. Some travelers hypothesize that the price surge comes from people booking last-minute business trips before they head home for the weekend.
Whatever the reason, Friday is the most expensive day of the week to book flights in the U.S. plus most other countries as well. The data applies to both domestic and international trips when looking at economy class tickets.
What is the best day to depart?
Not only can the day you purchase your airfare impact the price, so can the day you actually depart. For economy tickets, the best departure date depends on where you’re headed. For domestic flights, research found that Friday is the best day to leave. For international flights, the verdict points to Thursday. If you’re flexible on dates, see how the price is impacted by making this minor adjustment. You could see a pleasant drop in the cost.
One of the potential reasons for saving on these days is because leaving right before the weekend ensures you’ll stay through the weekend. The Expedia/ARC report also showed that including a Saturday on your trip could help you save on airfare. This may reflect a partnership in the hospitality industry to help support hotels, restaurants, and other tourism.
What’s the cheapest month to fly?
If you’re trying to determine the most budget-friendly time of year to plan a trip, consider the cheapest and most expensive months for airplane travel. The results depend on whether you’re staying stateside or traveling abroad.
If your destination is somewhere in the U.S., the best and worst travel periods revolve around the school year. Once Labor Day hits and kids are back in class, airfare drops, making September the best month to fly. When school lets out, prices increase again, with June the most expensive time of year to travel domestically.
When departing from the U.S., research shows that February is the least expensive month to fly. The holidays are over, people have spent a lot of money and vacation time, so demand is lower. Not surprisingly, December is reported as the most expensive month to fly, since people are presumably traveling to meet family and friends for the holiday season.
More Tips for Booking Flights
Getting your flight scheduled using the best days to book and depart is a smart way to save money. There are also a few other tactics you can use to minimize the cost of flying.
You should definitely aim to buy your ticket at least 30 days in advance of your trip, which means you should start tracking prices before then. Ideally, begin your ticket search up to three months ahead of time for both domestic and international flights. If you’re booking a last-minute flight within a few weeks of your departure date, expect to pay quite a bit more.
Remember to set up an airfare alert for your travel destination. This is especially important for flights leading up to a holiday because ticket prices can escalate so quickly.
Also don’t forget to consider different fees associated with flying, since these can vary greatly from airline to airline. Even if your ticket price is cheap, your total cost can quickly add up when you include baggage fees and even fees for picking a seat next to your travel companion. Look at joining customer loyalty programs or credit card travel rewards programs to help offset some of these costs.
You may not be able to control the cost associated with traveling. But if you use a bit of strategy and pad your timeline with plenty of room to shop for best deals, you can easily realize some major savings on your next flight. Just remember to book and depart on the best days of the week to stretch your dollar as much as possible.