The Best Time to Book Flights
Here are Taylor’s tips for getting good deals on flights…
I’ve worked in the travel industry nearly 15 years and a question that I’m asked almost weekly is, “When’s the best time to book flights?” People also ask me about booking hotels, vacation rentals, and cars… but I’ll save that for another post.
Over the years I’ve seen the industry trend to certain days of the week like you should always book airfare on Tuesdays. Then experts advised travelers to book flights no less than 2 weeks in advance. I’ve also seen tips offered for the type of trip you’re taking like international or domestic.
There are a few things that I think everyone should observe before we dive into some generic tips.
- Seasonality – If you’re planning to visit a hugely popular place during peak season, prepare to book flights much earlier.
- Weather-related events – If the destination is prone to bad weather when you’re planning to visit, you might find better deals if you book closer to your stay date.
- Holidays –Traveling during major US holidays is often more expensive with one or two exceptions. I’ll explain later.
- Big Conferences and Events – Every January, Las Vegas becomes paralyzed with tens of thousands of people during one of America’s biggest tech conferences called CES. If you don’t have to be in Vegas the 2nd full week of January, plan your stay before or after. Las Vegas isn’t the only city that welcomes huge crowds like CES. Other mega-events like the New York International Auto Show, the Essence Festival in New Orleans, and Comic-Con International in San Diego draw huge crowds and can make getting into town hectic for non-event goers.
- Departure City – Some airports are more expensive to fly out of than others, so although you may take note of seasonality, holidays and big events, your airport choice could make a difference.
Questions to Ask Yourself
There are some questions you should contemplate before searching for a flight:
- Are your dates flexible? Could you travel on a Wednesday instead of leaving on Friday afternoon?
- Are your times flexible? What if the best flight meant you had to be at the airport at 5 am, could you make that work?
- Could you fly out of an airport in the suburbs or a neighboring city?
- Are you traveling with several people?
- Could you ditch a companion and go solo if there’s one last seat available on the plane?
Back to the Main Question
Okay, now that we’ve gotten some navel-gazing out of the way, let’s talk about the best time to book travel. I’m a big fan of Google Flights. Simply Google it, put in your departure city, arrival city and the site will show you the lowest priced fare. But it gets better. Google Flights shows you the prices on a calendar so you can plan your trip around the price!
Another cool site is Skyscanner. Their booking site is like most others but if you dig deep on their website, you’ll find a handy guide that gives you the rundown on the best times to book travel. Plus, they’ve posted a list of destinations and the best times to book for those destinations. Some points I want to call out here are:
- Book early in the morning. Most people hear about a must-see destination at work or during their day and then decide to search for flights when they get home. Let’s not do that. Avoid 7 – 9 pm for booking travel.
- Book 2 – 3 weeks in advance for US travel. Most airlines will tell you that you’ll get a better deal 14 – 21 days before your travel date.
- Book 2 – 3 months in advance for international trips. Currency fluctuations, international events, and holidays all come into play with non-domestic trips, but earlier is always better in this case.
- If you must travel during the holidays, try to fly on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day. Flights are undoubtedly cheaper on those days.
- Book a package. My friends at Expedia.com can show you that if you bundle your flight with another service (hotel, car rental, excursion, etc.), you can save big.
The Hotel Hunt TV team will be on the road (or in the air) about 6 months out of the year. We hope to see you at an airport near you!
Happy Hotel Hunting and Safe Travels!