Pop quiz: Will you nab the cheapest airfare by booking a flight as early as possible? Or does it pay to wait till the last minute?
The answer is neither of those options, according to CheapAir.com’s latest airfare study — which involved analyzing about 921 million domestic airfares and some 351 million international airfares.
Instead, the website says you should aim for what it calls the “prime booking window” — a range of dates during which you’ll generally find the cheapest fare.
For domestic flights, this window is 21 to 105 days before the travel date, with 54 days out being the single best day to find the cheapest fare, on average.
For international flights, it’s generally best to book a little sooner than you would for domestic flights. But again, neither booking as early as possible nor at the last minute is the best option. CheapAir.com explains:
“International flights go on sale about 11 months in advance … What we see in the trends is that buying very early can be almost as costly as buying a last-minute airline ticket. The sweet spot for the lowest airfares is somewhere in the middle, and … it varies based on international region.”
The study found that the single best days to book an international flight at the cheapest rate for various regions are as follows, with the U.S. included as a reference point:
- United States: 54 days in advance, on average
- Canada: 59 days
- Mexico: 61 days
- Central America: 61 days
- Caribbean: 76 days
- South America: 81 days
- South Pacific: 89 days
- Asia: 90 days
- Europe: 99 days
- Africa: 119 days
- Middle East: 119 days
CheapAir.com emphasizes that these are simply averages, however. The site says it analyzed more than 2.9 million individual trips — “meaning flights from a Point A to a Point B departing on a specific set of dates” — and across those trips, the best time to book “varied wildly depending on the market, travel dates, and the specific travel preferences/must-haves of the traveler in question.”
This is why we cite being flexible about your travel dates as the first tip in “14 Super Smart Ways to Save on Travel.” As that article explains, not only are there cheaper days on which to buy plane tickets, but there are also cheaper days on which to fly.
For more ways to save on travel, check out “8 Great Travel Freebies You Can Get in 2017,” which includes a couple of flying freebies.
What has been your experience trying to find the cheapest days to book flights? Share it with us below or on our Facebook page.