Magic Dates: Cheapest Days to Fly in 2016

If you're planning a big summer vacation trip this year – or Spring Break jaunt or weekend getaway – bookmark this page. I analyzed FareCompare's real-time airfare data for week-long trips from 15 major cities across the U.S. Result: the cheapest days to fly in 2016.  I call them the magic dates.

LISTEN: Rick has a few more tips here.

Note to Non-U.S. Travelers

While this data is specifically geared to U.S. travelers, some of these cheapest dates are close to those international travelers would use (especially Europe). To find your cheapest day to fly, use an airfare search site and move your itinerary ahead and back a few days to see if prices change significantly.

Magic Dates to Fly: Cheapest Days of the Year

All dates shown refer to departures, for trips lasting seven days. We've divided this into sections for flights within the U.S. and to Europe and Asia.

Cheapest Dates to Fly: Spring Break in the U.S.

First, determine Spring Break week for your city. Call the school or search "public school spring break 2016" plus your city or state. For colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada, check this link.

Now that you have the dates, here is when to fly:

  • Fly on a weekday of Spring Break week (Monday to Friday).
  • Avoid flying the weekend that kicks off Spring Break week (including Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday) as well as the concluding weekend.
  • Saturday is a generally a little cheaper than Sunday.

A cheaper itinerary that must include a weekend could be a Tuesday to Saturday trip.

Magic Dates to Fly: Caribbean

  • Fly outside the more expensive Valentine's Day weekend (Sunday, Feb. 14).
  • Follow the rules for domestic Spring Break trips.

Compare all fares, but be sure to check for deals from low cost carriers (including Southwest and JetBlue) which may have more aggressive pricing.

Magic Dates to Fly: Spring and Pre-Summer in the U.S.

There are three airfare hikes from March through June before the highest-priced summer season gets underway.

  • March 16: Last day to depart and pay the cheaper winter prices. As of March 17, most fares rise.
  • May 16: Last day to take advantage of cheaper spring fares the hike before higher pre-summer pricing kicks in.
  • June 9: Last day to fly during the pre-summer season before the highest peak-summer prices take over.

Magic Dates to Fly: Late Summer and Fall in the U.S.

  • Aug. 1: As of this date, there is a slight drop for weekday airfare (Monday to Friday).
  • Aug. 23: On this date, the cheaper fall season gets underway and fares drop across the board.
  • Nov. 24 (Thanksgiving Day): The holiday is typically the cheapest day to fly for this popular travel period. Avoid flying Wednesday before (Nov. 23) and Sunday after (Nov. 27).

Magic Dates to Fly: Europe

This section focuses on travel from the U.S. to Europe but Europeans may find similar fare changes.

  • March 16: Last day to depart to take advantage of cheaper winter rates. As of March 17, prices jump slightly
  • May 16: Last day to take advantage of cheaper spring fares; as of May 17, fares jump significantly as the peak summer season for Europe gets underway.
  • Aug. 23: Fall pricing begins, and fares drop for the season.

Magic Dates to Fly: Asia

  • April 30: Last day to fly in the cheaper off-peak season; prices jump on May 1.
  • May 31: Last day of cheaper pre-summer fares; a more significant price hike begins June 1.
  • Aug. 1: Summer prices drop slightly.
  • Aug. 23: A more significant price drop gets underway.
  • Sept. 12: Depending on the airline there may be another small price drop.

No matter where or when you go, always compare fares. No single airline has a monopoly on the cheapest flights and if you don't compare you may pay too much.

Rick Seaney
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