Best Time to Buy Airline Tickets to Orlando

As a family man, I’ve been to Orlando a time or five, and always get a kick out of it (there’s a kind of magic in seeing this kid-centric entertainment mecca through the eyes of your child).

In fact I use a travel agent (except for airfare of course) who specializes in the U.S. Disney parks and cruises (we call her Ms. Disney) and warmly suggest you give her a try especially if you are a mouse newbie (my top tip is stay away from the meal plan).

Fly to Orlando, Fly with Harry Potter

And thanks to all the rave reviews about the new Harry Potter experience at Universal Orlando – including my co-founders teenager who noted it was jaw dropping, I’m sure many of you will be heading to Orlando International this year. Believe me, the airport will be happy to see you.

Airfare Trends to Orlando Start the Story

As an airfare guy I first like to take a look at trends when discussing ticket purchase strategies to a city and Orlando is no exception.

The following is a historical look at the average cheapest roundtrip airline ticket prices from the top 50 U.S. cities to Orlando (from our historical airfare database — the world’s largest):

First you’ll note prices are trending up this year (after last years decade low’s) — probably no surprise for summer shoppers as you can see even last year summer prices trended up until the end of July and began to drop as the first wave of fall airfare sales hit (a bit earlier this year in fact).

Orlando Airport Traffic and Seat Supply

Another ingredient that we need to chat about to make good ticket purchasing decisions is seat supply (more empty seats the cheaper the price usually). Below is a chart I pulled up from our OAG flight schedules we maintain historically (for travel at the end of August):

I picked this week wondering what schedule changes airlines would have when kids started going back to school and it appears Southwest is cutting back dramatically in September as they are the largest airline.

It’s been an up and down year for Orlando International Airport and you can blame that on the economy – a slide that was strongly felt in the first quarter of last year, when passenger traffic was off 12% from the year before – though there have been hopeful signs this year, including a slight increase in domestic traffic for the month of May, plus improved numbers over the Fourth of July holiday.

And beginning in October, Virgin America will operate new nonstop flights to Orlando from San Francisco and Los Angeles, and they have an airfare sale now underway to celebrate these new routes.

Shop Early Don’t Procrastinate

Start shopping for Orlando airfare early – airlines typically start to release their cheapest seats for domestic routes about 3 1/2 months before departure. But a word of caution.

There is such a thing as shopping and buying too early. During those first couple of months, spend your time “shopping” and by that I mean, comparing prices. This will help you recognize what a good deal looks like. Don’t go by what it cost you to fly to Orlando last summer – prices were at decade-long lows back then, and it is very unlikely that you’ll see those kind of deals this year.

Know the Best Day to Buy Airfare for Flights to Orlando

Knowing when to actually buy your airfare is most of the battle. These days, there is one “best day” you can usually count on.

I feel like a broken record, but I’ll say it again that the best time to buy domestic airline tickets is Tuesday at 3pm Eastern and Orlando is no exception (gory details at the link).

Does this mean you shouldn’t shop on other days? No, it means you should be aware that buying on airline sales is your goal and our data shows shopping between Tuesday and Thursday is perfect window of time to get the best deal.

The reason? Typically, an airline launches a sale on a Monday night – by Tuesday, other airlines with similar routes will have matched the prices of that initial sale, and some carriers will even go a little cheaper. Bottom line: You will have more airfare choices, which increases your chances of getting a good deal that is right for you.

Know the Cheapest Days to Fly to Orlando

Another key factor in getting the cheapest airfare, is knowing when to fly.

Here’s a another tip: generally, if you fly on a Friday or Sunday, the airlines will charge you more and that’s because they can, since most people prefer to fly those days. Be a maverick: fly midweek and save.

Or split the difference – fly just one of those “expensive days” and at least you’ll save some money.

Traveling with Family? Purchase Tickets One-at-a-Time

If you’re traveling by yourself, buy your ticket as you normally would – but if you have to get tickets for family or a friend, try this:

The explanation: The airline reservations systems are set up so that if there is only a single seat available at the lowest price, but you’re shopping for two tickets – the system automatically kicks your order up to the next highest price tier where there are two tickets of the same price. So buy one ticket at a time, even if it means doing separate transactions, because it could translate into real savings for one (or more) of your tickets.

Keep Orlando Travel Dates Flexible

Recognize that the airlines have attached “peak travel day” surcharges to the most popular dates, which include summer travel and holiday periods. Look at an airline surcharge calendar chart and try to avoid the worst days (or at least avoid the days with the highest surcharges which can add $60 to one plane ticket).

Use Twitter and Facebook for Exclusive Deals – Airlines and Attractions

Companies of all kinds have embraced social media, including the airlines; most are especially active on Twitter and Facebook, and you should join them. Many times you’ll find special deals there, advertised nowhere else.

Another good venue to follow: the Orlando tourism website, and they too have a robust presence on Twitter (@visitorlando) and Facebook.

Sign Up for Alerts on Orlando Airfare Deals

Don’t sit by your computer, searching for Orlando deals day after day; sign up for our real-time email airfare alerts as well as our Twitter airfare alerts, and we’ll do the heavy lifting for you.

Bottom Line for Orlando Savings

Shop ahead, be as flexible on your dates as possible and make sure you get alerted to any and all Orlando deals – and you will reap the benefits.

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Published: July 22, 2010