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Finding the cheapest airfare is a whole new sport. With pandemic disruptions and the flight demand rollercoaster, the guidelines for hunting down the best price for a flight are blurry and the target is always moving. We've investigated the top ways to hunt down your best-priced airfare, including getaways during the holidays.
When is the best day of the week to book a flight?
According to an Expedia study published in 2021, Sunday is the best day of the week to book a flight with up to 5% savings on domestic flights compared to booking on other days.
The same study also suggested the best day to start a domestic trip is Friday, which can save you up to 15%. In general, the latter half of the week (Wednesday to Saturday) can get you better savings than the beginning of the week (Sunday to Tuesday).
Does the day of the week really affect the price of a flight?
There is no one universally agreed-upon answer to this. The day of the week could impact the price of a ticket, but the price is more the result of a lot of other data points at any given moment. With airlines using tools like artificial intelligence (AI) technology to set ticket prices, you really don't need to worry about what day of the week you buy tickets.
What could matter more is how many days before the flight you buy the tickets, and generally the earlier the better. Accordingly to a March 2022 report done by CheapAir.com, you can usually get the best airfare exactly 76 days before your intended flight date. That holds true no matter what day of the week it is. This shows that planning ahead does pay off.
What Impacts Airfares?
There are several variables that impact airfare:
- Traveler Type: Are you a leisure or business traveler, and how much comfort do you need during the flight?
- Route: How in demand is the route at that time? How often have you traveled that route?
- Distance: Longer distances mean higher airfare.
- Fuel Prices: If fuel prices stay high, airlines have to make that money back through increased pricing.
While this is not an all-inclusive list, it does show just how different a pricing decision might be on any given day. Add in what the airlines call "dynamic pricing": the behind-the-scenes analysis of your search and purchase history and any other details of your demographics. With dynamic pricing, the price could not only change day to day but also through your searching and purchase decisions. That means two travelers buying tickets for the same flight at the same time, might not see the same price.
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Do prices really go down on Tuesday?
Maybe once upon a time and before the pandemic there was truth to the "Tuesday" guidance. It was believed Tuesdays were the day airlines had reviewed weekend travel data and eyed their competition before releasing the flight prices and deal updates around lunchtime on Tuesdays. But this doesn't seem to hold true anymore based on many studies.
When is the best day to travel for cheap flights?
Here's where Tuesday gets a little more 2022 limelight. Tuesday and Wednesdays are the least in-demand days for flights, so the price is generally much lower than flying on a Sunday. The CheapAir study showed there's nearly $60 between the price of a ticket on a Wednesday versus on Sunday.
When is the cheapest time to travel?
You should consider planning a Valentine's getaway because February is the least expensive, according to CheapAir, with January coming in as the second cheapest. April comes in third. Expedia claims January is the cheapest month to travel. The pattern here is that the beginning of the year seems to yield the cheaper flights (aside from March, which is when spring break travel occurs).
For summer travel, the CheapAir study shows August is the least expensive month to fly. A little more insight from this study when it comes to the best times to book seasonal travel for the best fares:
- Winter: Book 110 days in advance
- Spring: Book 76 days in advance
- Summer: Book 42 days in advance
- Fall: Book 77 days in advance
Best Time to Book Flights for Holiday Travel
Start searching for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year's fares in the late summer or early fall, or even earlier if you can. You won't find bargain prices during the holidays, but you'll have more options when it comes to seats and schedules. Thanksgiving Day flights are usually lower than flying the day or two before the holiday. Christmas Eve is one of the busier travel days, so expect higher prices. To avoid crowded flights and sky-high prices, avoid flying the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
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Tips to Get the Cheapest Flights
There aren't perfect rules to follow to get cheap flights, but there are a bunch of tools to put in your travel finder toolkit.
- Fly Out on a Weekday: Flying out mid-week will get you a lower price than flying on a Sunday or Monday. If you have to split the week up with travel, choose the latter part of the week to depart instead of leaving on a Sunday or Monday.
- Be Flexible: Even if you have a certain wedding date you need to make, move the search by a day or two around it in either direction to see what discounts there are. Many workplaces are remote nowadays, so if you are short on vacation days, you can even do a short workcation while in your hotel room.
- Buy in Advance: The earlier in advance that you book your price, the better your prices will likely be. If you don't want to count days you can use this "Best Time To Buy Flights" calculator with no expectation of booking the flight through that site.
- Set a Google Flight Alert: Let Google tell you when the deals are happening with Google Flight Alerts. Simple pick a range of dates, flight destination and preferred cost range (or other filters), then let Google send you a notification you when there are lower prices available.
Other Factors To Consider
While people say they want "cheap flights," what they really mean is they want good value. A $50 ticket isn't a good value if you'll be paying two to three times that much to bring baggage and you'll be squished into a small seat. Airlines are required by law to reveal all the fees that come with the ticket of the price, so before you book, definitely read the fine print. Expedia also says the price for premium economy seats is going down, so if you've ever wanted to get a little more legroom but couldn't afford it, this might be your chance.