Let’s start with the basics of finding the cheapest days to fly. Then, see more advanced shopping tips. Don’t worry, every single tip is very simple.
- Rule #1 – Always Compare Airfares
It’s real simple: Always compare airfares. No airline always has the best prices. Not Spirit, not Southwest, not every single time, and I’ve proven this. If you don’t compare ticket prices (and it only takes a second) you could pay too much. Note: Go to the Southwest site to compare its fares; Southwest is the only airline that does not share this information.
- Rule #2 – Set Airfare Alerts
If you know where you want to go, set an airfare alert. It only takes a second and the deals come to you. When you see one you like, act fast; others have set alerts too and cheap seats are always limited.
- Bonus rule – The Getaway Map
If you just want to get away – go someplace cheap – see the Getaway Map. It will show cheapest destinations from your hometown – locally and worldwide – in whatever month or season you’d like to fly.
Cheapest Days to Fly, Cheapest Times to Fly
Can’t do the cheapest days to fly or cheapest times in both directions? Do it on one leg of a trip and still reap half the savings.
- Fly hungry, fly tired: In other words, fly when people don’t like to travel on planes such as meal times, at dawn or overnight. Check out these general guidelines, but as always there are exceptions – another good reason to compare fares and compare fares for different itineraries.
- Cheapest days: The cheapest days to fly in the U.S. are Tuesdays, Wednesday, Saturdays.
- Expensive days: The most expensive days to fly in the U.S. are Fridays and Sundays.
- Outside the U.S.: This varies by country and region but midweek flights are usually cheaper than flying on weekends.
- Cheapest times: Fly when most people don’t want to including flights at dawn, red-eyes (overnight flights) and flights around the lunch and dinner hour.
The Best Time to Buy Airline Tickets
When to begin shopping and when to wrap up your purchase.
- Best day to shop: The best time to book a flight in the U.S. is usually Tuesday at about 3 p.m. eastern time. Reason: Many airlines release weekly sales late Monday or early Tuesday and by mid-afternoon, competing airlines have matched the lowest prices (so they don’t end up on page 30 of a shopper’s search query). Tuesday at 3 p.m. is usually when you’ll have the most deals to choose from.
- When to start and finish shopping: Shop too late and you may be hit with the kind of expensive, last-minute fares business travelers typically find, but shopping too early can also cost more. These are typical shopping windows for best-priced fares.
- U.S. domestic tickets: Shop between 3 months and 30 days before departure.
- International fares: Shop between 5 ½ months and 1 ½ months before departure.
- Peak travel: During peak seasons such as June, July and August, the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving and the December holidays, it’s best to purchase tickets two months in advance.
Cheaper Flights with a Little Inconvenience
If you can be flexible with travel plans, a little inconvenience can save a lot of money.
- Connecting flights: Non-stops are more convenient but you can often find better deals on connecting flights. Adding a stop (or two) can sometimes save as much as 50%.
- Bigger airports: Bigger airports (particularly hubs) often have cheaper airfares. Compare prices from your hometown airport and a larger airport and you may find a longer drive is worth the savings.
Finding Cheap Flights for Two or More
When you’re not shopping only for yourself.
- Shop one ticket at a time: When booking travel for two or more people, book just one ticket to start. A quirk in airline reservation systems means that multiple tickets sold in a single transaction must all be the same price. Example: An airline has only one ticket for $50 and the rest are $100. If you shop for two, you will pay $200 total, but if you shop one-at-a-time, you will pay $150 total.