This 100-Day Window Is Your Best Chance to Save on Airfare

There isn't really a single best day for booking plane tickets. But there is a prime time window for landing lower prices.

This 100-Day Window Is Your Best Chance to Save on Airfare Photo by Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock.com

Booking a plane ticket for U.S. travel exactly 70 days before the flight might score you the most savings — but don’t go banking on that number.

It’s not a foolproof tactic. It’s just an average. According to CheapAir.com’s recently released 2018 airfare study, the “prime booking window” is actually a 100-day-long period rather than a single day.

The website explains:

“… while averages can be a great guide, they should not be thought of as hard and fast rules. When you drill down into the individual trips, the best time to book varied based on markets, travel dates and the individual traveler preferences. This variation is captured by what we call the ‘prime booking window.'”

This window is defined as 21 to 121 days before a flight.

CheapAir.com’s study is based on an examination of 917 million airfares. These prices were analyzed to identify factors such as the prime booking window — that is, when flights are cheapest — and how airfares change from the day tickets go on sale until departure.

From that, CheapAir.com identified six booking windows, which the website dubs:

  1. The “First Dibs” window (169-319 days in advance): Book during this window, and you’ll pay a premium of $50 more, on average, but you’ll have the most flight and seat options.
  2. “Peace of Mind” (122-168 days): You’ll pay a premium of $20 and have decent flight and seat options.
  3. “Prime Booking” (21-121 days): This is “the best zone to nab a bargain,” as the study puts it.
  4. “Push Your Luck” (14-20 days): Lower airfares might still be available, depending on factors like the season, but flight and seat options will be limited.
  5. “Playing With Fire” (7-13 days): You “almost certainly” will pay more compared with purchasing during the prime window, the study states. But you’ll pay about 22 percent less than during the “Hail Mary” window, on average.
  6. “Hail Mary” (0-6 days): You will pay $208 more, on average, compared with the prime window. And of course, you’re most likely to get stuck with a center seat.

What has been your experience with how far out you book flights? Let us know below or over on our Facebook page.

Karla Bowsher
Karla Bowsher
I’m a freelance journalist and former newspaper reporter who has covered both personal and public finance. I've worked for a top 50 major metro daily and a community newspaper as well as ... More

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