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How Far in Advance Should I Book a Flight?

By Biki John | Last updated on

Planning a well-deserved getaway trip and trying to find the cheapest day to buy airline tickets can turn into a costly and frustrating game of hit and miss, for even the most experienced of travellers.

There are also important factors to consider that determine the best day of the week to buy flights—your destination, when you plan to travel and whether you are booking a domestic or international flight.

According to CheapAir’s annual airfare study, “The price of a flight changes on average every 4.5 days, and each change averages $33 up or down”. This implies that booking a flight is all about timing. We recently divulged the costly ramifications of being an early bird when purchasing your plane ticket; alternatively, an expensive last-minute flight is likely to curb your spontaneity when booking trips in the future.

So is there a magic number to consider when locating the prime booking window to buy tickets for your dream trip? In this article, we’ve done the grunt work for you and compiled a comprehensive guide with key travel insights that will save you from spending hours gazing anxiously at your screen in a bid to wait out the best flight deal.

Continue reading to learn all you need to know to buy airline tickets on a budget:

How Far in Advance Should I Book a Domestic Flight?

Flying within the country? That’s good news in terms of how much lead time you’ll need to buy tickets. When you’re booking a domestic flight, book your tickets between one and three months prior to your trip.

If you are traveling within your country, Rick Seaney, CEO and cofounder of online research FareCompare, believes that the cheapest day to book flights is from about three months to three or four weeks before departure.

According to Travel & Leisure, Kayak compiled one year of flight data and discovered the following:

“Six months before departure, domestic ticket prices were about 20 percent higher than the lowest fares. They started dropping three months out and hit a low to seven weeks before departure.”

Best time to book flights

CheapAir weighed in on the topic by conducting a survey to determine how far in advance savvy travelers ought to book a domestic flight to get the lowest fare. From their findings, they concluded that on average, 47 days was the best time.

It’s important to remember that these numbers aren’t written in stone, but rather, are to be used as a guideline on what to consider when searching for the most affordable booking window. In general, Kayak urges travelers against waiting too long, by saying:

“Whatever you do, don’t wait until the last week, when prices shoot up – by 25 percent”.

When is the Best Time to Buy International Flights?

It takes a lot more preparation to plan an international trip—and that includes booking your tickets further in advance. International flights don’t see the same kind of fluctuation domestic flights do, so more often than not what you see is what you’re going to get.

According to CheapAir, international flights:

“ …stay fairly flat for a few months, then start to creep up slowly, until about 90 days before departure when the place of increase starts to accelerate.”

The travel connoisseurs from FareCompare insist that the cheapest days to fly international are between five and a half months and one and a half months from departure.

Cheapest days to fly international

Put simply, three months out is when you want to start thinking of booking domestic flights – whereas for booking international flights, three months out is the last minute you want to be thinking of booking. Go more than three months out to book tickets for international flights to ensure that you’re getting the best deal possible.

CheapAir also advises that we take these digits with a pinch of salt because every international market is bound to be different, with its own unique caveat.

When to Book Flights to Popular Destinations & Times

Airline ticket sales operate on complex formulas, but one thing that remains fairly simple is the concept of supply and demand. When there is less supply, there will be more demand. Understandably, when there is more demand, there will be higher prices.

What that means for your travel plans is that you’ll want to book early when travelling to popular destinations and during peak times. Going to the beach or to Europe this summer, when everyone else is doing the same thing? Book early. Heading home for the holiday? Book early.

In general, apply common sense and you’ll get a good deal. However, there is one caveat to remember: supply and demand don’t mean airlines will lower their prices the month of a flight if seats aren’t filling up.
No matter how you dice it, trying to book a flight the same month of your trip (international or domestic) is going to cost you more.

What is the Cheapest Day to Book Flights?

There are a plethora of sources online that advise travellers on the best day and time to book their dream trip. However, as prices largely depend on airline routes and fluctuating prices make it difficult for research findings to stand the test of time, it’s safe to assume that there are no hard- and-fast-rules.

Up until this year, there was the popular belief that the cheapest day to book flights was Tuesday at midnight, as travellers who purchased flights on this day saved about 6% on their flights. However, this is no longer the case because more business travellers are booking their flights during the week.

Cheapest day to book flights

It can be mind-boggling trying to keep up with air travel predictions on the best day and time to book flights, so as a rule of thumb, we advise that if you’re scouring the net and land on a deal that has you jumping up and down in excitement—providing you’ve done your due diligence—regardless of what day of the week it is, it may be a good idea to snap it up as the price may not go down any lower.

And Lastly…

Best time to buy airline tickets

To ensure you get the most affordable flight deal, don’t forget to compare flight fares from different airlines, so you can ascertain the best carrier to get the cheapest deal.

In addition, although saving money on your flight means being able to spend money on more fun parts of your trip like restaurants and shopping, to ensure you take off for your trip on a good note, remember to use AirHelp Score to determine the best airline and airport.

Finally, if you follow our tips and your flight ends up being disrupted—if you are entitled to compensation, we are only a click away.

Flight delays happen, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept them. You may be entitled to as much as $700 in compensation if your flight was delayed, canceled or overbooked within the last three years.