Here’s How Far in Advance You Should Book Your Flights in 2019 (Video)
Here's when you should book your flights this year for the best deals.
Flight prices can fluctuate greatly, which is why knowing when to book tickets can make a big difference in the final price of a trip.
To help travelers as they plan out their upcoming vacations, CheapAir.com has pulled together its annual airfare study on the best times to book flights in 2019 based on 917 million airfares from last year.
Airfares changed an average of 61 times before a trip in 2018, CheapAir.com found. This can make tracking exact times to book tricky, but there are overarching patterns travelers can look at to make sure they don’t miss out on deals.
“Five years ago, we started crunching airfares because so many travelers felt like the market was volatile and random,” CheapAir.com CEO Jeff Klee said in a statement. “Today, we’re seeing that there are stable patterns; if you know the basics, you can almost always buy within a few percentage points of the lowest price.”
Overall, the study found 76 days before a trip to be the best time to book domestic flights, though there are various booking periods that come with their own benefits.
Take a look at the six booking zones CheapAir.com has identified below, showcasing how airfares generally look from the time they are published at about 11 months before a trip to the last minute travelers are able to buy tickets:
- First Dibs (about 10 months to 6.5 months in advance): CheapAir.com representatives recommend this window for travelers who care more about securing specific flight times or seats than getting the best price. These tickets can cost around $50 more than those available in the most affordable zone.
- Peace of Mind (about 6.5 to 4 months in advance): Travelers booking during this period can expect to pay around $20 more than the most affordable booking zone on flights, but they should find a decent amount of flight options.
- Prime Booking Window (about 4 months to 3 weeks in advance): This booking window is when travelers can expect the biggest savings, according to CheapAir.com.
- Push Your Luck (2 to 3 weeks in advance): Travelers might still find cheap tickets during this time, though the odds are not as good as they are in the prime booking window. Seat selections also start to dwindle during this period, so travelers may spend additional money to book a better seat option.
- Playing With Fire (1 to 2 weeks in advance): While waiting this long will often mean limited choices and higher prices than the prime booking window, booking during this time is still close to $135 less on average per ticket than buying at the very last minute.
- Hail Mary (less than a week in advance): This is when travelers can expect the highest prices, with tickets costing close to $220 more than what they typically do during the prime booking window.
While the study found that the specific day of the week a flight is booked won’t have a major effect on its price, the days travelers fly can. Tuesday was the cheapest day of the week to fly, with flights up to $85 cheaper on average than on the most expensive day of the week to fly (Sunday).
Flight prices also fluctuate depending on the season.
For winter, travelers can find affordable options as long as they steer clear of flying on Christmas week and to ski destinations. The average best time to book is 94 days (about three months) from the date of travel, with the prime booking window running from 74 to 116 days before a trip. Winter tends to be the most expensive season to travel, with domestic flights averaging $433.
Planning ahead becomes important for spring flights, thanks to increased family and spring break travel. The average best time to book is 84 days (about three months) before the travel date, and the prime booking widow is 47 to 119 days before. Average domestic fares are around $354 for the spring, the study found.
Traveling in August and September is a better time for snagging summer deals, with the average best time to book at 99 days before travel. The prime booking widow for summer is between 21 and 150 days before departure.
Finally, fall can be a sweet spot for budget travelers, offering average domestic fares of $342 with the best time to book landing on 69 days before travel. The prime booking window is 20 to 109 days before a trip.
It’s important to note that results on the best times to book flights can vary from one report to another. A recent report from Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Corporation found that the best deals can be found when booking three weeks in advance from most parts of the world, while Skyscanner also recommends booking two to three weeks in advance for the best domestic prices.
While noting these time frames can be a good starting point for travelers, combining it with tools like flight alerts and Google Flights can help make sure you don't miss the best deals, no matter when they happen to be.