If you want to save on your vacation trip, start planning… now.
CheapAir.com analyzed 917 million flights for its annual travel survey and found that the ideal place for travelers to get the best deals on domestic flights is between 21 and 95 days — that’s three weeks to three months — before the departure date.
It turns out that this year has been an area of flattening airline fares – only about $100 separates the most expensive month (that was in March – likely due to the post-pandemic spike in spring break) from the cheapest month (September).
And sure enough, you can test your luck by finding a low fare at the last minute. But CheapAir found that travelers who book eight to 13 days before a flight pay an average of $74 more than those who book in the main booking period. Get your ticket in less than a week and you’ll risk paying an average of $160 more than travelers who booked three weeks to four months in advance.
Purchasing a plane ticket well in advance may also result in a fine. Those who bought tickets 96 to 201 days in advance paid an additional $37 and those who bought tickets 202 to 315 days in advance paid an additional $90.
CheapAir has found that the best time to book varies greatly by season. You’ll want to book 89 days in advance to get the best prices for a fall trip, but the best time to buy for travel on a winter ski vacation or trip is 68 days in advance.
If you’re wondering what’s the best day of the week to buy your airline tickets, the CheapAir study says it doesn’t really matter. What matters is what day of the week you plan to leave or return. Travelers save an average of $82 by traveling on Tuesday or Wednesday (the cheapest day to travel) instead of Sunday (the most expensive day).
Nicole Dow is a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder. Writer/Editor Tiffany Wendlin Connors updated this post for 2021.