Did you know that travelling can do wonders for your health and well-being? Have you already picked your dream vacation spot for the upcoming holidays? Are you ready to pack your bags?
The question you are probably about to ask yourself next is: When is the cheapest time to book a flight?
As airfare can eat up a considerable portion of your travel budget, choosing the best time to book a flight is crucial! After all, the cheaper the plane ticket, the more money left to spend on delicious food, new experiences and fun!
A lot of travel booking sites accumulate precious data all year round and analyse it later to try and help you in your search for travel bargains. They can offer various tips ranging from the best time of day to book flights (I bet you can never guess!) to the best time to book long-haul flights. So if you are ready for an adventure, fasten your seatbelts and let our bargain-searching journey begin!
Departure point: UK
Searching for bargains is hard work as it involves visiting multiple sites, looking at lots of numbers and comparing prices. Yes, it’s quite boring - all numbers, figures, and percentages. But if you are departing from the UK, you can easily rely on certain recommendations as this important data-crunching work has already been done by online travel agencies, such as Opodo.
To make your life easier, we have looked at the relevant research based on return flights from the UK to all destinations (it is also quite extensive and fresh as it covers a 1-year period between October 2017 and September 2018). Based on it, we have prepared for you a list of key tips for booking the cheapest flights, so get ready for some answers.How far in advance should you book your flight to get the best deal?
1. How far in advance should you book your flight to get the best deal?
The answer is: 32 weeks on average.
This sounds a bit overwhelming as you’ll have to plan things very early on - more than 7 months ahead! Fun fact: If you type 32 weeks in the Google search engine, you get a picture of a pregnant woman. So 32 weeks is long enough for a whole new human being to develop. Well, your holiday deserves no less!
If you are travelling within the UK, however, you won’t have to plan that far ahead. The best time to buy your airline tickets obviously depends on your destination.
- For domestic flights (UK to UK) the best flight prices are on offer 2 to 3 months in advance. If you book your journey 82 days before take off, research shows you will save £13 on average. On the other hand, if you buy your tickets 103 days in advance, you will pay £30 less than the average price.
With international flights, you will have to make arrangements earlier.
- If you are planning a short-haul within Europe, simply stick to the magic number: 32 weeks. If you do, you may save up to £35.
- For flights to South/ North America or Asia you only need a month (3 months for Asia) to get the best ticket price and save up to £200.
- If you want to get a good deal when booking an international flight to a popular destination in Oceania, you will have to start your search for flight bargains 3 months earlier. If you do, you may save up to £400!
- For long-hauls to Africa the recommended time to book is 2-5 months ahead so that you can pay £45 to £65 less.
2. When is the best time to book your flight?
The best month to book
The data analysed by the travel agencies shows that the cheapest month to book flights in the UK is September. So if you are planning a journey for the Christmas holidays, this is your best option. Remember, that December is traditionally the most expensive month to travel.
For short-hauls within Europe and long-hauls to Asia and America, it is recommended to book your tickets in November. On the other hand, domestic flights are cheapest if booked in April.
The best day to book
Research has shown that the best day of the week to book a flight in the UK is Friday. So if you have done all the work you were expected to do for the week, you may well spend the rest of your Friday planning your holiday. Book your tickets, this is your best chance!
I can already picture myself spending all September and November Fridays looking at the falling leaves outside my window and dreaming up new destinations.
3. When is the best day and time to fly?
Friday dreamers like me probably know that if you want to get the best fare, you have to compare.
Experienced travellers compare the cheapest dates for a certain destination as well as the Quickest and Best fares. Most of the travel agencies provide interesting tips for travellers and destination recommendations.
According to research carried out by a company called “momondo”, if you are travelling from Europe, the ideal (average) time to book your flight is 60 days in advance. If you buy your tickets 2 months earlier, you will save about 25-30% on average.
Meanwhile, the best day to fly is Tuesday as prices are 7-12% lower than the average.
The best time of day to travel is generally the evening for journeys that will take you to Europe, North America and Africa. On the other hand, if you are going to South America, you should travel at noon. For destinations in Asia and Oceania, the recommended time of day for your flight is the morning.
So, European travel addicts, you are ready to book your next flight!
Time to go to the USA!
Departure point: USA
The relevant research for airfares in the USA has been done by a travel booking site called Skyscanner. Vast and fresh 2018 data is the basis for the following recommendations for the best time to book US flights. So, if your departure point is the USA, read on!
1. How far in advance should you book your US flight to get the best deal in 2019?
According to researchers the best time to book a domestic flight is 30 days ahead of departure (on average).
It is a good idea to check specifically for your particular destination and departure point. For New York, for example, the recommended booking time is at least 1 month ahead, however if you are flying from Chicago, it is advisable to start looking 5-6 months in advance.
If you are searching for the cheapest international flights, you should book 4 months before your departure date.
2. When is the best time to book your US flight?
In general, the cheapest month to book plane tickets is January.
This is wonderful news for travel lovers! I can imagine most of my friends asking to receive small envelopes with funds for future trips instead of the usual bulky and mostly useless Christmas presents. Once you get the tiny envelope, all you need to do is spend the extra holiday time researching possible destinations and then get a great deal. Memories are the best gift you can give yourself or your friends and family!
The best month to book
According to research for 2019, the best month to book a domestic flight is August. Historical data shows that booking then can help you save up to 4% on airfare. On the other hand, you should avoid booking in June, as prices are typically 4 % higher than the average.
If you have decided to travel internationally, the best month to book plane tickets would be September. 2018 data on round-trip airfares shows that September bookings help passengers save up to 6% on flight cost. Avoid booking international flights in June as plane tickets may cost 10% more than the average price.
The best day and time to book
To get a good flight deal, you should book your trip during the weekend.
For domestic flights the cheapest prices are on offer on Saturdays. You should avoid booking on Thursday or Friday as prices are typically higher just before the weekend.
On the other hand, the best day to book an international flight is Sunday - historical data shows lowest price offers on round trips on this day of the week.
Travel addicts know that prices tend to fluctuate during the course of the day too. According to the data, the best time to book your US flight for 2019 is 6 a.m. EST (keeping my fingers crossed you are one of those early birds). Airfares are typically higher at the end of the day, so try to avoid booking late at night.
3. When is the best time to fly?
US Domestic trips are cheapest in September and October, right before the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. According to 2018 data, passengers saved 11% on average when travelling in September.
The recommended time for international trips is October. The figures show that airfares are 15% cheaper than the average yearly ticket prices. On the other hand, December is the most expensive month for a trip. If you decide to travel internationally for Christmas, you will have to pay 18% more than the average price.
How to book the cheapest flight tickets: General advice
1. Be flexible with flight dates
Many flight comparison sites have developed tools and graphs to show you the cheapest month/ day of the week to book. If you can’t plan your holiday according to the cheapest month for domestic or international travel, you can at least tick the corresponding ‘flexible dates’ box and review the search results. Other sites display their results differently. Kayak, for example, has a magnificent map tool that allows you to see the best flight prices in your area for a certain period.
2. Plan ahead
Last-minute flights are typically more expensive. Airlines presume you are a business traveller, so they raise prices assuming that the company pays the bill.
The magic number here is 47 days in advance. But once you have chosen your destination, it is a good idea to check for the best time to book as various tools provide this precious data for free!
3. Be flexible with airports
Generally, hubs may offer more flight options and therefore much cheaper airfares than smaller airports. So even if the smaller airport is closer to your home, it is a good idea to check the prices at the closest large airport. It may turn out that the cost is cheaper even if you include the transfer expenses to the hub.
Alternatively, low-cost airlines usually fly to/from smaller airports that are sometimes located at a certain distance from large cities. So check their fares too.
Tip: some agencies offer you a useful option here. While conducting your search, you can click ’add nearby airports’ to see the cheapest airfares in the area. If there are certain airports you would like to avoid, you can simply untick these.
4. Avoid holidays
July, Thanksgiving and Christmas are typically the busiest time at airports. This means that prices go up in response to the increased demand. What is more, the increased number of passengers often means that you’ll have to spend longer hours at the airport during check-in and security. Another unfortunate consequence of great demand is increased air traffic which often leads to more flight disruptions.
5. Compare prices
There are many comparison sites that constantly refine their search tools. Use these as they can find really great bargains.
Extra tip: You may be racking up miles with your favourite airline, but buying a round trip is not always your best option. Depending on your departure/ arrival point and flight dates, you may be able to find cheaper tickets with different airlines. So loyalty is not always the cheapest option.
6. Set a price alert
Many flight search tools have this wonderful and free option. All you need to do is set the parameters for your desired itinerary, and then check your emails. The price alert tracks the price for a certain route/flight and notifies you as it changes.