I pride myself on being able to find the cheapest flights, which is why I’ve written countless posts with tips and tricks to help you do the same, including this one on signing up for fare alerts and the granddaddy of them all, these 17 ways to find cheap flights.
Like many savvy travelers, one of my go-to sites for pricing out flights is Google Flights. I love the way Google allows users to really drill down to specifics so you can pick and choose your airline(s), alliances, class of service, desired departure and arrival times, alternate airports and whole lot more, including the ability to price out multi-city trips. RELATED: The Best and Worst US Airports for Finding Cheap International Flights
Well, the Google Flights team recently analyzed five years’ worth of historical airfare data looking for reliable patterns and released a report with their findings. The data is from April to August of this year. In that period, they found searches for “cheapest airline tickets” surged more than 240% in the U.S. During this same period, the top-searched questions related to air travel included “when is the best time to book a flight?” and “how to find cheap flights?”
And so, without further ado … this is the best time to book a flight, according to the experts at Google.
When is the best time to book a flight? According to Google, these are the cheapest days to fly:
With all my years of finding cheap tickets, I didn’t need Google to tell me that “historically, it’s been cheaper to fly in the middle of the week than on the weekend — especially Sundays.” Everybody knows, or at least should know, that the best way to find cheap airfares is to fly midweek. But what I didn’t know is that “on average, flights that depart on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday have been 12% cheaper than weekend departures. If you exclude international destinations, the potential savings jump even higher to 20%.”
Nonstop flights versus taking a layover
Another general rule of thumb is that making a connection is cheaper than nonstop, which is why Google’s report states: “willingness to take a layover is one of your best bets to save money when you fly. On average, nonstop fares have been 20% higher than a flight with stops.”
RELATED: 17 Ways to Find Cheap Flights
What’s the best day of the week to book plane tickets?
For a decade or more, Tuesday used to be the best day of the week to purchase tickets. That hasn’t been the case for years and Google’s data confirms it’s not the case anymore. “There isn’t much value in purchasing your tickets on a certain day of the week — sorry, Tuesday! If you shop for flights on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays instead of Saturdays or Sundays, prices have only been 1.9% cheaper on average over the past five years. So if your trip is just a couple of weeks away, don’t wait for Tuesday to roll around — book your flight now in case the price goes up.” I truly don’t believe there’s a cheapest day or time when fares are lowest. That’s why I check often, sign up to a variety of newsletters including Scott’s Cheap Flights, follow in-the-know bloggers on Twitter and most importantly, set fare alerts. FYI: I have a free newsletter as well and share great deals on Twitter too, so be sure to sign up for my newsletter and follow me on Twitter.
What is the ideal number of days before departure to book a flight?
It’s almost always wise not to book too far in advance or at the very last minute. According to Google: “For U.S. domestic flights, prices have usually been their lowest 21-60 days out, with average prices bottoming out 44 days before departure. But keep in mind that these patterns may not hold true for your specific route, so planning and booking early is usually a good idea (this also applies to the other scenarios listed below).
When is the best time to book flights for Thanksgiving or Christmas?
Google says: “For domestic Thanksgiving travel, you’ll want to plan a bit further ahead. In the past, the lowest prices have usually been found 36-74 days before departure, hitting their lowest point 52 days out.
“For domestic trips around Christmas, the lowest average prices have been 22 days before departure, but that may be cutting it close. Prices have tended to drop anywhere between 20 and 88 days before departure.” RELATED: 10 Ways to Find Cheap Christmas Flights
When is the best time to buy Spring Break flights?
Google says the best time to buy domestic Spring Break tickets beginning in March or April is “lowest 23-59 days before departure, and 38 days out is when they’ve hit their low point.”
When is the best time to book flights for summer vacation?
What’s interesting is that for domestic summer trips beginning in July or August, “prices have been lower 14-44 days before departure, and the lowest average prices are usually 21 days out.”
Best time to book a flight from the U.S. to Europe?
A lot of Americans love to go to Europe (I’m one of them) so knowing that, it’s best to book trips to Europe from the U.S. on the earlier side. “The best deals were usually found 129 days before departure and prices tend to be lower anywhere between 50 and 179 days out.”
Best time to book flights from the U.S. to Mexico or the Caribbean?
The most popular international destination for Americans to travel to is Mexico since it’s so close, cheap and warm. According to Google: “average airfares from the U.S. to Mexico or the Caribbean have been lowest between 37 and 87 days before departure, and 59 days out is when they’ve hit their lowest point.”
So there you have it … some important tips and timeframes for the best time to book a flight. Remember, those who are flexible will always find the best deals and Google Flights can even help with that. They recommend you turn on tracking for ‘Any dates’ “to get notified of price drops for flights departing in the next 3 to 6 months. Use the calendar view, date grid and price graph to see how fares change. The calendar view and date grid let you see how much you can save if you’re flexible on your departure and return dates. The price graph shows you what prices look like for an ‘X day’ long trip, depending on the departure date.”
Let me know in the comments if you agree with Google’s data or if you have a better tip for finding cheap flights.
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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.