Ask six of your friends about the best time to buy airline tickets, and you’ll probably get six different answers. So is there any truth to an “ideal booking time,” or should you feel free to buy tickets whenever the price seems reasonable?
The Numbers Are In
It turns out that a study on this very topic was conducted by industry experts Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC). Their report, New Heights for Air Travel, revealed that cost, indeed, was different, depending on the day of the week and how far in advance travelers booked their flights. According to the report, booking on Sunday resulted in the cheapest fares, whereas booking on a Friday yielded the most expensive ones. Moreover, those traveling within the U.S. could save an average of 11 percent by booking on a Sunday. That might not sound like much until you consider that you could save a little over $100 on a $1,000 ticket, just by waiting.
Those traveling within the U.S. could save an average of 11 percent by booking on a Sunday.
The number of days before your flight can also have a considerable impact on ticket prices. The key is to book your flight at least three weeks ahead of time, because prices tend to go up after that. In fact, two studies conducted by CheapAir.com found that 54 days prior to your departure is the best time to buy tickets for travel within the U.S., and between 70 and 320 days in advance for U.S. travelers flying to international destinations.
Other Ways to Save
Saving on flights isn’t just about timing. Here are more ideas for stretching your dollar:
- Sign up for email alerts. No need to keep refreshing those airline websites. Sign up for alerts from your favorite airlines or sites that search for discounts for you like Flightfox. You’ll be notified when your prices change as soon as they happen.
- Get two one-way tickets instead of a round trip. Although purchasing tickets in a round-trip package is usually the most cost-effective option, sometimes two one-way flights can actually be cheaper, so take a look before booking.
- Get a refund if the price drops. If you purchase tickets and then notice the price has gone down, you may be able to request a refund from your carrier for the difference. Just note that this feature may not be available through some vendors and airlines, and that a refund or transfer fee may apply.
- Pick your price, then your destination. If you’re a flexible traveler with a small budget, some sites allow you to search for tickets based on price first rather than destination. Who knows what hidden gems you might find?
- Fund your way with a travel rewards card. If you’re a regular traveler, a travel rewards card can be an easy way to save on flights. Cards such as Navy Federal Credit Union’s GO REWARDS® credit card and Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards Credit Card give you points for purchases, which are then redeemable for your next airline tickets.
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