When is the best to book a plane ticket to save money?

Of all the problems a traveler will tackle in their lifetime, there is perhaps no art more mysterious than booking a plane ticket at the right time to save the maximum amount of cash.  These days, the quoted prices of airfares bounce all over the place, from week to week, day to day, and even in some cases, hour to hour.

On balance though, there are several patterns to watch for and rules to follow to avoid getting soaked when you go to book a flight.  By adhering to the advice to follow, you’ll be able to save your hard earned dollars for more joyous purposes, like fruity tropical cocktails or day-long excursions into the outstanding natural environments that your destination has to offer.  Let’s get started…!

The prime booking window

If you’re a math aficionado, then you’re probably wondering if there’s an exact formula or statistical average that determines when one should expect prices to be at their cheapest.  Given that there is so much data that is publically available these days, there actually is.

According to a popular online booking site’s recent survey, they have determined that 54 days before your flight is the rough average across all the flights that they take bookings for, which is when you can generally expect a great deal. If the nature of your travels means that you can’t book that early, or if you’re well out from the time of your trip and you want to make official ASAP, low prices can frequently be found within 104 to 29 days out from your intended date of departure, so don’t be disheartened with you can’t book at the 54 day mark.

Where are you going?

The popularity of a destination can also have a disproportionate impact on the time when you can expect to get a killer deal on a flight.  For example, uber-popular Europe has the longest wait time between the day of prime booking to the day of departure, with a whopping 151 days recommended for the budget traveler, while those seeking a getaway to Latin America can take it easier, with only an 80 day wait from booking day to the date of their flight.

Stay away from weekends

Travelers whose concerns only involve how long it will take to get from the hotel to a sun lounger upon arrival may not think of this one starting out, but it’s a tried and true tip for those looking to save some serious cash.  Flights on weekends are filled with those trying to make the most of their limited time off, or with business travelers flying out to and from conferences.  This limits capacity during these times, allowing airlines to charge higher fares.  With most of the world busy in their cubicles mid-week, you can snag a much better deal at these times.

A phone hack that will net you a steal of a deal

This tip involves getting off your computer and onto the phone with a real human being.  During the early parts of the week, airlines usually post discount fares, but not all of them get snapped up by customers.  With these seats poised to flood back into the system on Wednesday, you have a limited window in which to secure a deal that can be hard to come way.  On Wednesday at approximately 1 AM, call your airline and chances are, they will have a fare that is lower than what you can usually find over the internet.

There are always ways to game the system

By studying stats, planning your booking times, and going to great pains to talk to actual people, you’ll be surprised what deals you can score on air fares these days.  Just one final thought: if you end up sharing an armrest with a fellow passenger, let them have it.  After all, they probably paid a lot more than you will after reading this! 

Bonus Tip: Use a “Private Window” to do searches for flights and hotels

Ever searched a flight or hotel a few times over a couple days just to see the price continue to inch up with every search? Probably chances are, yes. Believe it or not, flight and hotel search engines actually use cookies from your browser to gauge how much to quote you. If they see you searching the same flight over and over again, they want to pressure you to buy so they inch up the prices, scoundrels! A great way to avoid this trap is to search all your flights and hotels in a private window which can be accessed in the little orange tab in the top left of the screen on Firefox or on the top right of the screen on Chrome. Chrome calls it an, “incognito window”. Other flight and hotel search engines may actually use your IP address instead of cookies to quote you. You can avoid this by hiding your IP address with a tool like a Virtual Private Network from providers like ExpressVPN.

Searching through these windows allows no history to be saved, no cookies to be saved or anything that a search engine could use against you.

Do you have any other tips for saving money on booking flights?