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What the Data Says About the Best Times to Book Flights

By Julia Hammond
Read time: 4 minutes

Booking a flight — especially if you’re on a budget — can seem daunting. It can feel like each time you look at the fares advertised on airline websites or online travel agencies, the price changes — sometimes by a considerable amount. No one likes missing out on a great fare or paying more than the passenger seated next to them. So, we took a look at the data about whether there’s really a perfect time to book a flight — and here’s what we found out.

Ask the Experts

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Airline ticketing is a dynamic process, and fares change constantly. That said, data-based reports from industry experts that analyze overall trends in data can help considerably as you embark on the purchasing process. For example, Expedia’s annual Air Travel Hacks Report helps potential bookers make evidence-based decisions about the flights they select. Its findings take into account a wealth of data in conjunction with the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) and data specialists OAG

Best Time to Book Domestic Flights for Cheap Airfare

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What do those reports tell us? According to the 2024 Air Travel Hacks Report, the sweet spot for booking domestic flights is currently 28 days before you are planning to depart. Data compiled for the online travel agent’s latest survey suggests that you might save as much as 24% on the cost of your ticket when compared with waiting to book last-minute

Travel agency CheapAir’s survey had similar findings. It concluded that the prime booking window fell between 21 and 74 days before departure — and that 42 days out was, on average, the cheapest for domestic flight purchases. However, it also found that the average fare changed a jaw-dropping 49 times between the date of release and takeoff. Because of this volatility, you might wish to sign up for frequent flier programs and email newsletters that enable you to jump on promotional deals as soon as they are launched.

Cheapest Time to Book International Flights

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When flying internationally, travelers tend to book further out. Long-haul flights tend to be more expensive, and locking in a deal earlier can be beneficial when budgeting the rest of the trip. Expedia’s findings indicate that, in order to secure savings of around 10%, you should try to make your purchase approximately two months ahead of departure — and usually no more than four months in advance.

However, other travel companies had different findings. For example, in November 2023, Kayak said that their data indicated booking eight months ahead was the ideal time for travelers to pin down their flights to Africa, Asia, Europe, Central America, or the South Pacific for 2024 travel. They predicted that travelers doing so could save an average of between 8% and 18% on the cost of their airfare. This discrepancy only reinforces the fact that prices fluctuate, so knowing in your own mind what constitutes the kind of deal you’d be happy with is important. 

What’s the Cheapest Day to Fly?

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It’s not just when you book — there’s also a huge variation in prices according to the days and times you choose to actually fly. Obviously, traveling outside peak holiday periods and popular vacation times is a must for deal seekers. However, the day you choose to fly can also noticeably impact the fare even during low season. 

A good tip is to try to predict when many others will want to fly and choose a different time or day. For instance, when most travelers plan a weekend away, they’ll set off on Friday and return late on Sunday, as this minimizes disruption to the workweek. So instead, try flying out on Saturday and back on Monday.

Flying midweek — on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday — can also make a big difference to the cost of your airline ticket. You can also save by flying very early in the morning (one of the best times to avoid flight delays) or by taking an indirect route with one or more layovers. In general, it helps to be flexible. If a routing is less convenient, fares will be discounted — sometimes considerably so.

Is There a Perfect Time to Book a Flight?

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Ultimately, because of the many variables involved in ticket prices and each traveler’s specific set of criteria, it’s virtually impossible to say with absolute certainty the best time to book a flight. Plus, future fares will be influenced by demand going forward, which is uncertain due to the large number of factors that come into play. But as long as you’re happy with the fare you’ve settled on, then you can consider that a good deal.

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