Planning on taking several trips this year? Unless it’s a free trip, we all know how stressful it can be at times to find cheap flights that work around our schedules. The great thing about the 21st Century, however, is the endless amount of resources we can find on the internet. I’ve done the research to help you get the best deal on your next flight. From the best day to buy to the best day to fly and the best sites to use, I’ve got you covered.
When’s the Best Time to Book a Flight?
Whether it’s for the holidays, spring break or summer vacation, it’s never too early to start planning your next trip. That includes scoping out airline tickets. As a big fan of travel myself, I know that the prices on some tickets are way out of my budget. But let me reassure you that I’ve never paid an outrageous price for tickets. That’s because I wait for just the right time to buy. And I’m about to let you in on the secret to saving big. There are a ton of theories out there about the best day to buy airline tickets. Some people say Tuesday at 3 p.m., some say 1 a.m. Wednesday, and some people say the weekend. So, which is it?
So many folks think Tuesday is the best day to buy cheap airline tickets. That’s because airlines often announce deals on Monday evenings. By Tuesday at noon, other airlines are scrambling to match those deals. So Tuesday afternoons are the best time to hunt for reduced airfare.
Studies suggests waiting until 1 a.m. on Wednesday to snag the deals that didn’t get taken on Tuesday. But it’s also recommended to call the airline and talk to a ticket agent in person (for the most dedicated money-savers). Texas A&M University, however, found that weekends are actually the best time to book airline tickets. That’s because airlines are more likely to lower their fares on Saturday and Sunday to attract leisure travelers. The study found that tickets purchased on the weekend were historically an average of 5% cheaper than similar tickets purchased during the week.
An even newer study from The Wall Street Journal shows that most people can save an average of $60 by purchasing their tickets on Sundays instead of Tuesdays. The study also showed a significant increase of ticket prices on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
So, what should you do? If you see one airline offering a deal on Monday, make plans to buy your tickets on Tuesday. If there are no deals going on, buy on the weekend.
What’s the Best Day to Fly?
Studies show that flying on Tuesdays is still the best day to fly for less. Fewer people travel on Tuesdays, and less demand means a better deal for you. Friday and Sunday are the most expensive. The time of day you travel is also important. No one wants to fly at 4 a.m., but you can shave off big bucks from your ticket price if you do. The first flight of the day, red-eye flights or any flight that coincides with lunchtime or dinner are the best times to fly if you want to pay less.
How Early Should I Buy?
Here’s a no-brainer: It pays to buy your tickets early. A good rule of thumb is that domestic tickets will be at their lowest price six weeks before your date of departure. Even better: If you know you’re going to be taking a trip, start haunting the sites really early, and when you see a good deal, grab it. After that six-week point, ticket prices tend to climb up slowly, then spike to their highest point a few days before departure. Of course, there will always be exceptions to the rule. The airline could have a big sale on flights to a certain city when demand is down, for example.
What are the Best Websites for Cheap Flights?
These are my picks for the top 10 Web-based sources for cheap airfare. Bookmark these sites and come back to them the next time you’re flight shopping. You won’t always find the deal of the year, but there’s a good chance you’ll save money or find better routing options.
- ITA Matrix
- Airfare Watchdog
- Google Flights
- @TheFlightDeal on Twitter
Tips for Finding Cheap Airfare:
1. Be flexible with your travel dates and times
Airline ticket prices vary depending on the day of the week, time of year, and upcoming holidays, such as Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Thanksgiving, or the Fourth of July. August is a big month for traveling around Europe, and everyone wants to go somewhere warm in the winter or travel when the kids are out of school. If you are going to fly when everyone is flying, then you’re going to pay higher fares. Try to be flexible with your dates. If you are dead-set on visiting Paris, go to Paris in the spring or fall when fewer people visit and airfares are cheaper. Moreover, it’s always cheaper to fly during the middle of the week than on a weekend, because most people travel on the weekends and airlines hike their prices then.
2. Be flexible with your destinations
If you can’t be flexible when you fly, at least be flexible with where you fly. It’s best to be both, but if you really want to save the most money on a flight, you should at least do one!
3. Fly budget carriers
Budget airlines now service many long-haul routes, making it possible to bounce around the world for little money. Norwegian Airlines allows you to fly between Europe and Bangkok for about $250 each way. WOW air is introducing cheap flights to Iceland and Europe from the United States for as little as $99. You can fly most of the way around the world on a budget airline!
4. Don’t always fly direct
Not only does it help to be flexible with dates and destinations but try being flexible with the route you take, too. Sometimes it’s cheaper to fly to London and take a budget airline to Amsterdam than to fly direct to Amsterdam. There are so many budget carriers around the world that taking advantage of a good deal to another city and then hopping on a budget flight to your destination is sometimes the best way to go.
5. Remember, all search engines aren’t equal
You need to search as many flight search websites as you can in order to ensure you are leaving no stone unturned. Many search sites don’t list budget carriers because those airlines don’t want to pay a booking commission while others don’t list booking sites that aren’t in English! It’s important to check a few sites before you book, as you’ll often see variations in prices, and you don’t want to miss a deal.
6. Sign up for a frequent flier program and travel hack
Airline rewards programs are a great way to get free flights, free upgrades, and free companion tickets. No matter how often you fly, you should be signed up for the airline’s reward program.
Find Cheap Flights Today
Finding a cheap flight is about being flexible and smart in where you go, when you go, and how you get there. Follow the tips above, but don’t waste forever finding a cheap flight. I start all my searches with Momondo because they search all major AND budget airlines, non-English websites, English websites, and everything in between. Even if you aren’t sure your plans, it’s best to start searching for flights today. People who wait to book are people who end up spending the most.