If us globetrotters had a crystal ball, one of the top questions we would ask is: what is that magic date to snag the lowest flight price?
Of course, there are many unpredictable factors cause flight prices to fluctuate, so we can never truly know when the lowest price will become available. But existing flight price data and patterns can give some indication of when that sweet spot is likely to be found.
CheapAir.com’s team of analysts has mined through data to produce its Annual Airfair Study, looking at 917 million airfares in more than 8,000 markets to offer the most educated recommendations on when to buy your airline ticket.
The report breaks down:
- The average “best day” to buy your airline ticket
- The airfare booking “zones” – what you can expect to pay for an airfare depending on when you buy
- How to identify the Prime Booking Window – the range of dates you’ll be most likely to find a low price
- The best and worst days of the week to fly based on price
- How seasonality affects the price of your airline ticket
Here are some of CheapAir’s key findings.
1. Best overall day to book
For 2018, the “best day to buy a flight” on average within the continental USA (which can be transferred to other countries) was… drumroll please… 76 days out from your travel date.
But alas, if only it was that simple. Moving on…
2. Booking zones
The average best day to book is a very simplified number and doesn’t account for the varying factors that play into your booking experience.
CheapAir’s analysts have identified different “booking zones” based on the type of traveller you are, to help you really figure out what is best for you.
315 to 203 days in advance (about ten months to six and a half months)
First Dibs is for buyers with an agenda. You know who you are. You’re less motivated by price and more motivated by your flight preferences (such as a certain flight time or seat) and you want to lock in plans well in advance. Flights in the First Dibs zone do cost about $50 more per ticket than flights in the Prime Booking Window (the most affordable zone), on average. If you like to have many options, however, there’s no better time to buy.
Peace of Mind
202 to 116 days in advance (about six and a half to four months)
Peace of Mind is where you might want to land if you’ve got anxiety surrounding big airfare purchases coupled with FOMO for a good deal. When you’re in the Peace of Mind zone, you’ll likely pay just about $20 more than flights in the Prime Booking Window and you’re still buying early enough to have a decent amount of choice.
Prime Booking Window
115 to 21 days in advance (about four months to three weeks)
This is where the magic happens, travellers. And while some of the other zones have shifted slightly from one year to the next, the Prime Booking Window stays pretty solid. What does this mean? Well, the data shows that the lowest airfares tend to pop up about four months to three weeks in advance of your travel dates. Fares in this zone are within five percent of their lowest point. Bargain shopping? Stay in the sweet spot – the Prime Booking Window.
Push Your Luck
20 to 14 days in advance (two to three weeks)
We’re heading into gambling territory once you get within two to three weeks of your travel dates. The odds of getting a “cheap ticket” start to decrease heading into the Push Your Luck zone, though if you do like to roll the dice you may still find cheap tickets. One important factor to consider – though there could be lower priced fares in Push Your Luck, the quantity and quality of seats is more limited the closer we get to the travel date. You may find yourself paying slightly more for a subpar seat.
Playing with Fire
13 to seven days in advance (one to two weeks)
No matter how long we’re in the airfare prediction game, we find that some people just like to play with fire. Hence, they carved out the Playing with Fire zone. You’ll almost always pay more than Prime Booking Window buyers, but pay less (close to $135, on average) than people who wait until the very last minute to buy. In this zone, choice is even more limited.
Six to zero days in advance (less than a week)
How did we get here? Usually, people who are buying in the Hail Mary zone are doing so because of an unexpected trip, not because waiting until less than a week from your travel date was a conscious choice. You’re going to have to cope with the least amount of choice in the Hail Mary zone, and you’re apt to pay almost $220 more than you would have if this ticket was purchased in the Prime Booking Window.
Days of the week
Contrary to popular belief, whether you book your flight on a Tuesday or a Sunday does not make a significant impact on the price; the average low fair only varies by $1 based on purchase day.
However, there are definitely price differences on the day of the week on which you fly. Tuesday is said to be the cheapest, at nearly $85 cheaper than the most expensive day, which is Sunday. In general, weekends tend to be more expensive days to fly.
CheapAir’s study reveals the best time to buy flights based on the season.
Best time to buy flights by season. (CheapAir.com)
Average best time to book: 94 days before travel
Prime booking window: 74 to 116 before travel
Tip: Steer clear of Christmas and ski destinations. Winter is the most expensive time to travel.
Average best time to book: 84 days before travel
Prime booking window: 47 to 119 days before travel
Average best time to book: 99 days before travel
Prime booking window: 21 to 150 days before travel
Average best time to book: 69 days before travel
Prime booking window: 20 to 109 days before travel
Tip: Fall is a good time to snag budget-friendly trips
Of course, the findings in this report are not foolproof, and flight prices will always fluctuate. It’s always best to compare prices on different booking engines such as Google Flights, Skyscanner, and Kayak, and keep your eye out for deals right here on your local Daily Hive city. If you see a price that seems decent and the destination is calling your name, then YOLO and hit book!