The Best Time to Book a Flight, According to Travel Experts3 min read
And there’s a bit of good news for last-minute Christmas holiday planners: According to Google Flights data, the lowest average prices for domestic flights have been 22 days before departure. However, the study also notes: “That may be cutting it close. Prices have tended to drop anywhere between 20 and 88 days before departure.”
What’s the best time to buy airline tickets according to destination?
If you’re going to Europe…
Good news, according to CheapAir.com’s latest data: Flights to Europe $500 less than in 2021, averaging $992. The prime booking window is a wide one, too: between 1 and 6.5 months prior to traveling, with prices bottoming out 79 days beforehand. For even more savings, travel during October and November, which are the cheapest months to travel.
If you’re going to Asia…
Airfare for some international trips, like from the U.S. to Southeast Asia, has been significantly more volatile (and pricey) since the pandemic. According to Hopper’s figures, average airfare to the region is up more than 28 percent from $900/round-trip this time in 2019. You’ll need to plan early for the best deals: Flights are cheapest a whopping 314 days from departure on average, according to CheapAir.com’s most recent data, with a wider range of 2.5 to 6.5 months before departure for the prime booking window.
If you’re going to Africa…
Flights to Africa have come down about $300 since 2021, according to CheapAir.com, but you’ll still have to plan way ahead for your trip (and not just with flights: We suggest engaging a safari travel specialist at least six months in advance). According to CheapAir.com, the best time to book flights is 213 days in advance, with a prime booking window of 2 to 10 months before departure.
When is the best time to buy airline tickets based on departure day?
According to experts, Tuesdays and Wednesdays have the best fares for domestic flights, since there’s less competition between business travelers and other fliers. CheapAir.com’s most recent data found that flying on Wednesday in 2022 saves travelers $57 per ticket versus Sunday, which is the most expensive day to travel. (Tuesday is close behind, with an average savings of $56).
What about last-minute deals?
Despite all the advice about advance planning, sometimes waiting until the last minute can score the best deal—especially as business travel continues to lag in the post-pandemic era. Keyes, of Scott’s Cheap Flights, advises travelers who miss out on booking during the “Goldilocks Window” to keep their eyes open for last-minute deals, which, although not super common, are still out there.
“With business travel still down 25 to 30 percent, and even more on some routes, your odds of a cheap or at least decent last-minute flight are quite a bit higher today than in 2019,” Keyes explains. “I certainly wouldn’t recommend putting off booking until the last minute in the hopes of a fare drop, but if you find yourself needing a flight on short notice, your prospects are substantially better today than pre-pandemic.”
Additional reporting by Paul Brady and Laura Dannen Redman. This article has been updated with new information since its original publish date.