When Is the Best Time and Day of the Week to Book a Flight?

FT Contributor
A smartphone with an airline booking site opened up sits on top of plane tickets while sitting next to credit cards and passports.

Traveling is one of life’s greatest joys, but the expense of it all can be discouraging. Fortunately, there are ways to find affordable travel. There’s a lot of information out there regarding the best time to book a flight. Some places say certain times of the day are best, while others specify a certain day of the week as the best time to book. Often, the advice you get on the best time to book a flight is conflicting. Below, we’ll explain how you can become a savvy airfare shopper and get the best deals on your next flight.

Table of Contents

When Should You Purchase Airline Tickets?

Many articles share different tips regarding the best time or best day to buy airline tickets, but much of this advice is based on information that is dated and obsolete. For instance, the most common misconception about booking airfare is that Tuesday is the best day to book. However, as noted by Consumer Reports, these myths surrounding airline travel are not necessarily true in the modern market.

Contrary to popular belief, airlines are increasingly using flash sales to generate business. This makes the best day and time to book a flight a total gamble. Luckily, there are a few tips and tricks to knowing when those times will be.

Best Time/Day to Buy Airline Tickets

According to that same Consumer Reports article, there is not necessarily a “best” time or best day to buy tickets, but consumers should be watchful for flash sales.

Generally speaking, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving is when most airlines will have a major sale. While prices may be good during this time, actual tickets may be lacking, as most of the flights for winter vacation travel have already sold out by then. Whenever possible, book your flight as early as you can, and try to do so on a weekend. Tickets purchased on Saturdays and Sundays are significantly cheaper than airfare during the week.

Cheapest Time of the Year to Fly

The cheapest time of the year to fly is during “dead zones.” These are times of the year during which airlines see extremely low levels of business. As a result, you’ll be able to score good deals for these periods. Dead zones mean empty seats on planes, which cost airlines money when you consider the fuel and staff required to employ those planes. Deep discounting is not uncommon so as to fill these near-empty planes during the dead zones.

Three dead zones that fall during the course of the year: the first two weeks of November, the two weeks following the Thanksgiving holiday, and the second week of January through February. Booking during these times could save you an exponential amount, depending on the airline.

Research You Should Do Prior to Booking a Flight

Relying on the techniques mentioned above can help, but your own research is required if you want to find the best prices available. Prior to conducting your own research, it’s important to have an understanding of where you’re headed, the luggage you’ll be bringing along, and any personal needs that are pertinent. Armed with this information, you’ll be able to address the concerns outlined below and find the airline that’s going to best meet your needs.

Comparing Airlines Throughout the Year

If you want to score the cheapest tickets possible, you’ll need to continually compare rates from different airlines. Some websites, like Travelocity or KAYAK, can streamline this process. You can also shop directly on the airline website of your choice, but look into when their prices tend to drop first.

It’s also important to compare rates for different times of the year. For example, the dead zones we mentioned are an unpopular time to travel due to the holiday season, making them some of the most affordable times to travel. If your plans are flexible, you may want to choose a time of year that is less costly. Finding the right airline at the right time of the year will allow you to save money on travel.

Weigh the Benefits of Loyalty Programs

Bonuses like free miles or discounts on flights can offset a slightly higher cost for your tickets. Many airlines offer credit cards with rewards programs that allow you to earn cashback on your purchases. That cash back can later be used on expenses related to travel, including airline tickets.

Conduct research to find the travel credit card that best suits your needs. Some offer airline miles, while some offer direct cashback. If you don’t do a lot of travel, investing in a travel credit card that charges an annual fee may not be the best option for you. Ultimately, it comes down to how you want to use your rewards. If you do travel a lot, avoid getting too hung up on annual fees. Often, the benefits the card provides outweigh the costs associated with having the card.

Other Considerations to Keep in Mind

Beyond the research already mentioned, there are other factors to keep in mind when shopping for flight tickets. The holidays can wreak havoc on the cost of your ticket, and so can the airline or seating class that you choose. Don’t forget to consider these factors so that you get the most affordable price on airfare.

Holidays Create Airport Madness

If you’ll be traveling on a major holiday, you may need to book your flight earlier than the recommended guidelines above. Because this is such a busy time to travel, you’ll need to book far enough in advance to ensure you get a seat in addition to the best price. Unless you are buying tickets to fly on a major holiday, you shouldn’t buy your tickets several months in advance. A study conducted by CheapoAir found that airline tickets cost an average of $50 more when they first go on sale. The study concluded that the best time to buy airline tickets is one to three and a half months before a trip.

Consider the Quality of the Airline/Travel Class

Finding a good price is vital, but keep in mind that having a comfortable flight can be worth the extra cost. Certain airlines charge more for a ticket, but that’s because they offer better perks, like in-flight meals, free checked baggage, and additional legroom. If you’re flying transcontinental, you may want to invest in these added comforts. If your flight is only an hour or two, consider giving up a few perks. Ultimately, the flight ticket you book comes down to your personal needs and the length of your flight.

Consider Alternative Forms of Transportation

If rates are too high for continental tickets, consider seeking out other methods of transportation. Taking the train or driving your own car may be less costly choices, even if they’re slightly less convenient.

Alternate forms of transportation do offer a few benefits, like more leeway when it comes to luggage. When driving, it doesn’t cost you anything to bring additional bags. Most railways allow you to bring two checked bags free of charge. Other alternative modes of transportation, like charter buses and limo services, are available if you don’t want to take a train or drive yourself to your destination.

If you’re looking for the best time or best day of the week to book a flight, it’s important to do your research. Use the tips outlined above to get started. Safe travels!

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