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The Best Time to Buy Plane Tickets

Hint: there's no best day of the week to book a flight.

The Best Time to Buy Plane Tickets

You've probably heard that Tuesday afternoons is the best time to buy plane tickets. This guide on the best time to buy airline tickets will debunk that myth and give tips on when you can actually save money on airfare.

It doesn't really matter what day of the week you buy your plane tickets, but how far in advance of your desired flight. The optimal window for inexpensive airline tickets is three weeks to four months prior to departure. This will vary slightly on season and airline, but your best bet for cheap domestic flights is right around two months. You'll be able to keep your travels under budget with this guide.

Do Flight Prices Go Down on Tuesday?

There's a myth that airlines suddenly reduce flight costs on Tuesdays at 3 p.m. EST. While you will save money, it won't be a noticeable amount as the average ticket is discounted by $2 for domestic flights and $4 for international flights at this time. The day of the week may save you a few dollars, but don't take a late lunch to ensure you get a devlisih discount.

Is It Cheaper to Buy a Plane Ticket at the Last Minute?

Booking Windows:

The key to saving money on your flights is not about what day of the week you buy but how far in advance you buy your airfare. However, this doesn't mean that the earlier you buy your ticket the cheaper it becomes. Airlines operate in fairly standard windows of what tickets will cost for flights.

For domestic flights in the U.S. there are six standard booking windows:

  1. First Dibs (169-319 days in advance) +$50
  2. Peace of Mind (122-168 days in advance) +$20
  3. Prime Booking  (21-121 days in advance) lowest on average
  4. Push Your Luck (14-20 days in advance) +$20
  5. Playing With Fire (7-13 days in advance) +$95
  6. Hail Mary (0-6 days in advance) +$208
These statistics show how much you'll pay above the "Prime Booking" window on average. You can luck into cheaper airfare on either end of the spectrum, but booking three weeks to four months in advance of your flight will give you the lowest average fares. 

Seasonal Changes:

Flight windows and costs will fluctuate by the season when you're flying. Flights in fall have a much shorter window of the best day to purchase a ticket (~47 days in advacne) and only fluctuate about $8 between the "Peace of Mind" and "Playing with Fire" windows. In contrast, spring flights are best booked ~90 days in advance and the price can fluctuate by over $300 over just a few days time.

International Flights:

While flights in the U.S. have a best buying window of ~21-121 days, international flights are somewhat different. Here's a list of the average best day to uby based on region or country:
  1. North America (Mexico and Canada) ~70 days
  2. South America ~110 days
  3. Asia ~120 days
  4. Europe ~150 days
  5. Caribbean ~200 days
  6. South Pacific ~200 days
  7. Africa ~200 days
  8. Middle East ~200 days
You can learn more about booking windows from CheapAir.

How Far in Advance is Best?

Are Flights More Expensive on the Weekend?

Another big price component is when the plane is scheduled to depart. Fridays and Sundays are the most expensive days to fly, while Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday are generally the cheapest. The best time of day to fly is the first flight of the morning (which means waking up before 4 a.m.). If you aren't an early riser, you can follow the "Fly Hungry" method where you plan flights during lunch and dinner hours when most passengers are worried about flying uncomfortably. The last flight of the night can also be cheaper, but you're more likely to face a lay-over if the schedule gets disrupted, so this isn't ideal if you have a strict arrival time.

Cheapest Times to Fly?

Other Tips?

Price Compare:
Using price comparing websites like FareCompare and Kayak will check all of the airlines for the cheapest flights for a given date and location.

Use Incognito Mode:
When comparing prices, use a private browsing window to check prices. Airfare (among many things you buy online) prices will increase every time you search for your plane tickets in a normal browser on your computer.

Alerts:
Most airlines have alert systems that will tell you when flash sales and deals are on their sites. These free alerts can save you hundreds if you act fast!

Credit Cards:
In addition to earning miles, some airline credit cards can provide cheaper fares, free checked baggage, and other perks to frequent flyers.

Do you have experience getting cheaper airfare? Let us know how you fly inexpensively in our comments!

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This was a very helpful article. A friend of mine told me about using an incognito window and saved a significant amount of money. Thanks for all the tips!

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