How to Blow Hundreds of Dollars by Shopping for Airfare on the Wrong Day

How I Almost Blew Hundreds of Dollars

Whoa. Did I almost screw-up or what?

The key word is “almost”.

I almost paid 50% more for airfare than I had to. But I didn’t, because at the last minute, I remembered FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney’s golden rule: the best day to shop for airfare is Tuesday – specifically, Tuesday afternoon.

Don’t Make This Mistake

I was shopping for Thanksgiving flights for the college kid who’s away at school – looking at roundtrips from a mid-sized Midwestern airport to Los Angeles. When was I looking at flights?

On the weekend.

Bad move – and I know this because I’ve made this screw-up before (hey, what can I say – I’m human).

The flights I was looking at were going for $650+ (note: there were cheaper flights, but I was hampered by the kid’s class schedule – there was little to no flexibility in the dates and times that could be flown – and flexibility is the way to get the best deals available).

Which Would You Pay – $650 or $440

Luckily, I could not bring myself to buy. But I was worried about procrastinating, too – this year, the price of Thanksgiving flights seem to be heading up day by day, plus I knew the airlines have been cutting capacity in recent years, and if I delayed too long, I’d really pay a steep price*** or not get a seat at all.

But I decided to wait – and shop on Tuesday. And boy did it pay off.

I found a roundtrip flight which fit my scheduling needs perfectly, for about $440 roundtrip. I saved more than $200, and you can too.

Why Tuesday is the Best Day to Shop

If you’re wondering what’s so magical about shopping for airfare on Tuesdays, here’s the answer:

  • Most airfare sales are launched Monday nights
  • Other airlines join in to match these new sale prices
  • Matching is usually completed by Tuesday afternoon

And that means, on Tuesday afternoon, you have more airlines to choose from – more airlines with more good airfares that could meet your needs.

Attention Holiday Airfare Shoppers

If you have to buy airline tickets for Thanksgiving or Christmas, shop on Tuesday – but an important reminder:

Airfare during this holiday period will not be “cheap”. This is because everyone wants to fly during the holidays, and the airlines are well aware of this fact and charge accordingly – as much as they think you will pay.

The best you can hope for, as FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney says, is “the best of the bad deals”. But why pay more than you have to? Why pay a penny more? And you won’t pay more, if you shop on Tuesday.

Hey, it worked for me. How about you? Let us know.

***A few years back I procrastinated my way into paying more than $900 for Thanksgiving airfare. No, I do not want to talk about it.

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Published: September 23, 2010