What’s The Best Day And Time To Book Flights?

What’s The Best Day And Time To Book Flights?
What’s The Best Day And Time To Book Flights?

Everyone knows the best day of the week to buy plane tickets is Tuesday…or maybe it’s Sunday. Either way, there’s surely a best day of the week to buy flights, right?

Common wisdom is full of advice about when to book flights. The trouble is that much of this is based on assumptions, old information and good ol’ self-fulfilling prophecy.

Let’s set all of that aside and look at data from two studies revealing the best day of the week to buy airline tickets and how far in advance you should book your flights.

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What Is The Best Day To Buy Airline Tickets?

Historically, travelers have been advised to book flights on Tuesdays to get the best flight deal. And there was a time when this was true. A decade ago, airlines generally launched new sales on Tuesdays, and airlines were generally quick to match each other’s prices. This could lead to cheap flight deals on Tuesdays. That is if an airline launched a new sale.

However, this advice no longer holds true. Airlines don’t just release sales on Tuesdays, and airlines don’t always match their competitors’ sales. Now, the advice on what is the best day of the week to buy airline tickets depends on which study you read.

According to a study by Expedia, the cheapest day to book flights is Sunday. When comparing Sunday flight prices to Friday, Expedia found that travelers save 5% on domestic flights and 15% on international flights. Sunday has been the best day of the week to book flights since before 2020.

Another study done by Google found that flight prices on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays were 1.9% cheaper on average than flights on Saturdays and Sundays. However, Google’s conclusion in releasing its study results: “There isn’t much value in purchasing your tickets on a certain day of the week.”

We concur with this advice. The best day of the week to buy airline tickets is the day when a flight deal pops up. And that will not be reliably on one day of the week or another.

When Is The Best Time To Book a Flight?

Best Time To Book International Flights

According to Expedia’s study, data shows that you want to book at least six months in advance for international travel. The study found you’ll save an average of 10% by booking six months in advance instead of two months or less.

Google’s flight price study analyzed two types of international flights. For flights to Europe, Google found that the best deals were found 129 days out—but could be anywhere between 50 and 179 days before departure. Flights to Mexico and the Caribbean didn’t require as much advance booking. Statistically, the best day to book flights was 59 days out, but the lowest fares were found anywhere between 37 and 87 days before departure.

Another reason to book international flights in advance is to take advantage of price drops. Basic economy fares are still generally non-changeable on most airlines. However, standard economy fares can now be freely changeable on many U.S. airlines.

That means you can lock in what might seem like a decent deal well ahead of your flight. Then, watch for fare drops. If the price does decrease, you can change your flight and generally claim a voucher for the price difference. While a voucher isn’t as good as cash, you can utilize this voucher to save out-of-pocket costs on future flights.

Best Time To Book Domestic Flights

Good news procrastinators: Studies show that you don’t need to book flights that far out to get a good deal. The Expedia study found that the sweet spot is 28 to 35 days before departure while the Google study found prices bottomed out 44 days before departure. However, both studies agree that you don’t want to wait until the last minute. Book at least 21 days before departure.

There May Not Be a Best Day To Buy an Airline Ticket

At the risk of stating the obvious, the best day to buy airline tickets is when the price is cheap. Think about this from the airline’s standpoint. If everyone knew which day of the week or date on the calendar was the cheapest, do you think they would offer their best flight deals on that date? Or, would they maximize profits by perhaps charging a bit more on that date?

Instead, airlines put airfares on sale when they’re looking to fill seats. Perhaps a route just launched and the airline doesn’t want seats to go out empty. It might put fares at firesale levels. We saw that when Norse Atlantic Airways launched flights, selling flights to Europe for just $120 each way.

Or, maybe an airline priced flights too high for too long and has a lot of empty seats on a flight that’s departing soon. You better believe that the airline will drop prices on that flight to fill up those empty seats.

How Far in Advance Should I Book a Flight?

Most airlines release their flights for booking almost a year in advance, but there doesn’t seem to be any price benefit in booking so early. Incorporating the data from the Expedia and Google studies, here’s what we recommend in terms of how far in advance you should make your flight reservations.

DestinationHow far in advance to book
DomesticOne to two months
Mexico/CaribbeanOne to two months
InternationalTwo to six months

How To Get Cheap Flights

Now that we’ve debunked the “best day to book flight” theory, let’s talk about the real ways you can save when booking flights.

Book Changeable Flights and Rebook

Most U.S. airlines have eliminated change fees on standard economy tickets and higher. That means that you can book early and rebook at a cheaper rate when your price drops.

Here’s the strategy: Start by booking a flight as soon as you know when you might travel. Make sure to select a fare that’s freely changeable or cancellable. Remember that basic economy tickets aren’t changeable or cancellable after 24 hours so double check the fare class before you press the buy button.

Then, track the price of that flight. If you catch a fare drop, change your flight with the airline to the lower priced ticket. You won’t get a refund for the price difference—instead you’ll get a flight voucher—so don’t forget to use the voucher before it expires. This strategy assumes that you would be likely to have use for the voucher, so if you don’t have future travel plans, then this is not a viable path for you.

Capital One Travel Price Drop Protection

Qualifying Capital One credit cardholders have a powerful tool on their side for finding cheap flights: the Capital One Travel portal.

Capital One partners with flight data service Hopper to analyze billions of flight prices daily to predict when it’s a good time to buy your flight. When you search for flights, Capital One Travel will provide a recommendation on whether you should book now or wait.

Capital One and Hopper are so confident in their model that travelers get free price drop protection if the Hopper-powered price predictor tool recommends that you book now. Through this service, you’ll automatically get a Capital One travel credit of up to $50 if the price drops during a set time period after you book your flight.

Even better, Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card cardholders get a $300 in annual credit for bookings through Capital One Travel and earn 2 miles per dollar on all eligible purchases, 5 miles per dollar on flights booked through Capital One Travel, 5 miles per dollar on Capital One Entertainment purchases through 12/31/25 and 10 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars when booking via Capital One Travel.

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Google Price Guarantee

Google recently introduced Price Guarantee, a pilot program that’s available on selected Book on Google itineraries. If you book a Price guarantee itinerary through Book on Google, Google will track the price until departure. If the price drops, you’ll get the difference back in Google Pay within 48 hours after your departure as long as the difference is greater than $5.

How To Find a Price Guarantee Flight

Fire up Google Flights as usual and search for your desired itinerary. If you see a multi-colored badge next to any of the flights in your search results, congratulations—you just found a Price Guarantee flight.

Here’s a sample itinerary, flying from Atlanta (ATL) to Seattle (SEA). Google Price Guarantee apples to two different flights on this routing, one on Spirit and one on Alaska.

To initiate Price Guarantee, select a badged flight itinerary and use the Book on Google link to checkout.

Be sure to sign into your Google account and check the “Price Guarantee” box to accept the Terms and Conditions of the program.

There’s no cost to using Price Guarantee, but there are some conditions to be eligible:

  • Your country/region in Google Flights must be set to the U.S. and the currency must be in U.S. dollars.
  • Price Guarantee applies only to one-way and round-trip flights departing from the U.S.
  • You must use a U.S. billing address and U.S. phone number on the Book on Google page.
  • You must be signed into your Google account.

Track Flight Prices for Price Drops

Whether you aren’t ready to commit to purchasing a flight or you’re looking for price drops, you have a couple of free options for tracking flight prices—Google Flights’ price tracking tool and Capital One Travel’s price watch tool.

To set up price tracking on Google Flights, search for a flight. At the top of the results, you should see two options for tracking prices. One option sets up a flight price tracker only for flights that day. The other option will track flight prices on this route for any date—if your travel dates are flexible.

If you’re only interested in prices for a particular flight, select that flight from the results and click the Track prices button to track the price for just that flight.

Google Flights will periodically email you with updates on your tracked flights and routes. These emails can prompt you to book your flight—or rebook your flight at a lower price.

Or you can manually check back on how flight prices are changing over time by opening your tracked flight prices dashboard.

Read more: How To Use Google Flights To Find Cheaper Flights

Alternatively, eligible Capital One cardholders can use the Capital One Travel “watch this trip” option to get emails about price changes and when you should book. You can opt to exclude basic economy fares or include only non-stop flights.

Subscribe to Flight Deal Services

If you’re flexible on where you go and when you go, all of this advice so far isn’t going to help you much. Instead, we recommend subscribing to flight deal services that will alert you when there’s a cheap flight from your preferred departure airport(s). Some top flight deal subscription services include:

  • Going (Formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights)
  • FareDrop
  • Thrifty Traveler Premium
  • Dollar Flight Club

How To Get Cheap Last-Minute Flights

Airfare generally increases, often drastically, as the departure date approaches. Often the cheapest fares will have a requirement that the fare must be purchased 21 days in advance. As a result, last minute flight deals are not all that common.

If you have to travel on short notice and your destination is fixed, here are some strategies to try. Note that these are generally some of the same strategies as looking for cheap fares.

Consider Flying to or From Alternate Airports

Check itineraries to or from other airports that you can reasonably get to. Positioning to another departure location could give you more flight options and lower prices. Similarly, arriving in an alternate arrival airport could get you a cheaper price. For example, flying into Chicago Midway can be cheaper than flying into Chicago O’Hare, or London Gatwick over London Heathrow.

Be an Early Bird or a Night Owl

Cheaper flights are often at less appealing times, such as early morning or late at night.

Be Willing to Change Planes

Flight routings with one or more stops can be cheaper, particularly with long layovers.

Use Spontaneity to Your Favor

If you are looking for cheap fares for a spontaneous trip, the Explore tool on Google flights is your best friend. Simply plug in your departure airport and dates on the Google Flights search page, leave the destination blank and click on Explore. Google will display the lowest cost for destinations all over the world.

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Bottom Line

Studies have been conducted and the results are ambiguous. You might be able to save money by booking flights on Sundays. Or maybe you’ll save a bit by booking midweek.

One thing is clear: Getting cheap flights is no longer about booking flights on the “right” day. Instead, you’ll want to use tools and trackers to find the best flight price. Once you book a flight, continue to check flight prices for drops if you’ve booked a fare with no change fees. That’s where you can really rack up some savings on your flights.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you book a flight more than a year in advance?

The short answer is no. Most major scheduled airlines release their flights for booking anywhere from 330 days to 361 days in advance.

Specifically, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines flights can be purchased 331 days in advance while United Airlines will sell their flights 337 days ahead. Some airlines such as Southwest, Frontier and Spirit open their flights for reservations about six months in advance on average, at varying times during the year

Where can I find last-minute flight deals?

Typically, airfares increase in price closer to departure. There may be the odd occasion that the price goes down, but in general, prices increase as the departure date approaches, since airlines make the assumption that most last-minute travelers are business travelers and are less sensitive to price than leisure travelers.

If you suddenly get the urge to travel, then likely your best bet is to jump onto Google Flights and use the Explore tool. You can set your departure city and your desired dates and Explore will display the lowest fares for destinations all over the world. Set a filter for the maximum price you’re willing to pay to see what’s possible within your budget.

When should I book holiday flights?

Holiday flights can be pricey given the demand for these popular times. The Google study found that historically domestic airfares for Thanksgiving were cheapest about 36 to 74 days ahead of departure with the low point being around the 52-day mark. For Christmas, the lowest domestic airfares were to be found 22 days prior to departure, but were generally lower 20 to 88 days before the plane took off.

For domestic spring break trips around March or April, booking your domestic flight was cheapest 38 days before departure. In general, prices are lower between 23 and 59 days prior. July and August summer vacation travel is best booked 14 to 44 days ahead, with prices generally bottoming out around 21 days.

Source: forbes.com

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