Booking cheap flights for your vacation often looks like a gambling game with no clear rules. Prices sometimes change within an hour or two and you might think that you have missed your booking window.
Many travelers rely on last minute offers, and it is true that some airlines significantly reduce their ticket prices a week or a few days before the flight in order to sell their remaining seats. Nevertheless, pinning one’s hopes in sudden price drops is risky business, even if you have access to travel credit cards or air miles. Not to mention you also need to be flexible on your travel dates in order to be able to take this risk.
The rule of thumb for finding good flight options is to search in advance. But when is the best time to buy your tickets? While getting the best flight bargain is not an exact science, there are some general tips that you can follow in order to secure good deals.
Booking domestic flights
The prices of domestic flights, no matter if we're talking about the U.S. or the UK, tend to fluctuate a lot more and more often than the ones for overseas and international journeys.
When it comes to booking tickets for such “internal” journeys, the early bird does not always get the worm. The prices tend to be higher when the tickets are initially released, so it is recommended to wait a while before securing a spot.
If you are trying to get the most favorable deal, the best time frame for booking a domestic flight is between four months and three weeks before the flight date. Since this is a long period of time, you can take advantage of the online search engines and sign up for price alerts.
That way, you will be able to track the pricing of your desired route and be notified about any changes. Some online travel agencies that you can turn to for this service are Skyscanner, Kayak, and Google Flights. However, remember that no flight search engine can guarantee the lowest price of airline tickets all the time. It’s a good idea to use several sources so that you are able to compare flights and choose the best option.
Booking international flights
Planning an international trip, especially if you live in the U.S., may be a challenge. Some people go as far as looking for the cheapest flights a year in advance, and there is some logic behind that. While domestic airline tickets tend to have fluctuating prices, international flights are usually the cheapest when they are first released.
Nevertheless, not everyone can afford the luxury of long term planning, and this became even more common after the COVID crisis hit. That is why we recommend that you start looking at least three months ahead of the departure date to ensure getting good deals.
The best option would be to start monitoring the price trends around ten months in advance, and aim to book around six months before departure.
Peak season booking
Making plans for your summer travel or major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas definitely requires an early start. The flight prices during peak season usually follow the supply and demand principle. Hence, a popular destination and a time period when most people are free to fly almost always equal high prices.
Starting the planning process as much in advance as possible can spare you a lot of headaches and help you with the main goal, saving money. The online travel agency CheapAir releases an annual “holiday flight report” that gives a good estimate of the best time frame to buy flights. They analyze thousands of travel itineraries and publish specific tips on when to secure your tickets for the holidays. They are as specific as pointing to a particular day of the week for booking.
Early travel plans definitely have their advantages but they also come with some risks. If it so happens that the flight that you booked months in advance gets canceled or is greatly delayed, the SkyRefund team is here to help you. Our legal experts will assist you with the process of applying for compensation and do all the tedious administrative work for you. You can check if you are eligible for compensation under the EU 261 Regulation here.
We at SkyRefund hope that you will find our guidelines helpful. You can also read our blog post “When is the best time to book a flight” to discover more hacks and useful tips on finding a good flight deal. We wish you happy hunting for the best tickets and safe travels!