When it comes to purchasing flight tickets, you should not leave it up to luck. There are different strategies you can use that have been carefully studied by data analysts and travel experts worldwide to help you snag the best deal available online.
The first thing you have to know is that there is actually a right time to buy your flight tickets. In 2013, CheapAir.com studied over 1.5 billion fares to estimate how far in advance you should book for flights, both for domestic fares in the United States as well as for flights abroad. The study revealed an interesting statistic that you should keep in mind.
For the average domestic flight, booking 54 days in advance will offer the cheapest fare. However, for international flights, you’ll want to purchase tickets even farther in advance. Travelers going to Africa should book the earliest, at 166 days in advance, while those heading to the South Pacific can book much closer to their departure, at an average of 70 days in advance.
Yet, instead of getting so fixated on the exact number of days that you should be booking your ticket in advance, you should be looking at a range of dates instead. The CheapAir.com study revealed that the prime window for purchasing a ticket is between 29 and 104 days before takeoff.
Yet, as airfare prices fluctuate constantly, this statistic doesn’t hold true for every single flight you want to take. The key is to monitor airline ticket prices actively during the prime window to check if prices are starting to go down or up. If it goes down from the previous rate, book it already. If it goes down even more the next day, you have the right to refund the ticket you bought, provided the booking was not made any longer than 24 hours ago. If the prices are starting to go up slowly, don’t risk it any longer and just book the next cheapest deal you’ve found. Again, if it drops the next day, you can always refund your original ticket and book a new one.
The single biggest factor in airfare prices is how full a flight is, so do your best in anticipating whether there is going to be an influx of passengers at your desired travel dates. It’s pretty much a given that weekends are usually busier because of business travelers, while holidays are surely going to be overbooked because of people traveling from one state to another to come home and visit their families. Thankfully, summer is not synchronized everywhere around the world, so make it a point to travel during your dream destination’s non-peak season to save on flight tickets. However, if you really do have to travel during summertime, take into account that flights tend to fill up more quickly and they get more expensive as they fill. That being said, it is best to book flights even before the prime window noted above.
Depending on how firm or flexible you are – here are some other guidelines to help you score a deal on your airline ticket:
- If your plans are firm
Book one to two months out for domestic travel and two to three months out for international travel. Add an extra month for peak travel times like holidays or major events.
- If your plans are flexible
If you’re able to travel on different dates, are not picky about the airline and don’t mind landing in a nearby airport, you can book even beyond the prime window. As most airlines will slash prices at the last moment to fill up all their seats, you will surely get a better deal if you don’t book too early. You can even site up for last-minute fare alerts directly with the airline or alert notifications from a third-party website if your desired flight has dropped in prices.
At the end of the day, while booking a ticket too late can be quite an expensive headache, it is worst to book too early when prices are not as competitive as they should be.
Regardless of when you’re planning to book your flight, here are some other strategies you have to keep in mind for more savings:
- Leave on a Wednesday
As business travelers are always traveling between Friday and Monday, Wednesday is usually the cheapest day to fly. It is a well-known fact in the airline industry, and one that holds especially true for domestic travel.
- Fly out at specific times
If you want to save on airplane tickets, it is best to fly out early in the morning, during lunch or around dinnertime. More convenient time slots are usually more expensive, as many people opt not to change their waking-up or sleeping schedules. However, f you’re flying internationally, taking the red-eye flight is almost always a guarantee you’d get good savings.
- Search on multiple sites
Even if you’ve found a good deal on one site, it doesn’t hurt to double check with another site if they’re offering a better rate for the same flight. It is best to check with Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz to see if you’re getting the best deal available there is.
- Check the airline’s own website
This is most often overlooked by a lot of seasoned travelers, but airlines usually reserve the best deals on their own booking platforms to encourage people to book directly on their websites. Again, it doesn’t hurt to double check with the airline to see if they’re offering better rates.
- Remove your cookies
Ever wonder how a website knows you’re looking for flights to Brussels or Mexico City? By leaving cookies on their website, they keep track of your search history and make use of algorithms to adjust prices based on your previous searches. A good way to avoid this smart moneymaking technique is to remove your browsing history and erase all your cookies. It’s a simple trick but one that can save you a few hundred dollars on your next holiday.