Photo (cc) by Arturo J. Paniagua
Fluctuating daily airfares can make booking a flight frustrating. It’s the Goldilocks principle: Buy too early and prices will be high; buy too late and you’ll likely pay a lot more for your ticket.
But there appears to be a magic number – 54 – a “just right” time that you need to know to get the best bargain on your flight.
You will find the cheapest airfares about 54 days prior to departure, according to a new study by CheapAir, which examined more than 4 million trips in 2013. It said:
According to the data, sometime around 225 days out (7½ months), on average, fares started to drop and by 104 days out (3½ months) they had fallen to within $10 of their low point. From there they continued to drop, slowly but steadily, until reaching a low 54 days before departure. After 54 days, fares started to climb again, remaining within $10 of that low until 29 days out. Then, the increase began to accelerate and once you were within 14 days the fares really shot up dramatically.
The study said 54 isn’t really an exact number; it’s best to purchase plane tickets about 29 to 104 days prior to flying, a time referred to as the “prime booking window.” Average airfares are typically within about $10 of the lowest fare possible within the prime window.
There is an exception to this rule, Airfarewatchdog said. If you plan on flying during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays or want to book a popular route, like Florida during spring break, it’s best to book as early as possible.
It really is frustrating to watch airfares go up and down, and then finally book a flight, only to have prices drop significantly after the fact.
Do you have tips to share about when you usually book your flights? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page. Meanwhile, we have some tips for you in the following video on how to get the best seats.