Anyone obsessed with finding cheap flights has surely heard the old myth – wait until Tuesday; that’s when prices drop! And with the price of air travel increasing more and more (while the airlines give us less and less), no one would criticize you for doing everything you can to find the best flight deals out there.
Unfortunately, airline pricing is a very complex thing, and the wait-until-Tuesday logic is basically useless. Finding flight deals is not about the day of the week, the time of day, or the position of the moon. But that’s not to say you’re out of luck when shopping for an airline ticket, as there is real logic to be aware of and best practices to know.
Basic studies have shown that mid-week is when flight prices are a tiny bit cheaper – in the range of one or two percent, give or take – but if you’re concerned whether your plane tickets to Maui cost $500 or $495, you probably shouldn’t go anyway. However, things like the day of the actual flight, how far out you book, and how you go about finding your deal can make a huge difference in the price.
That said, we have a lot to say about when exactly you’ll find the cheapest flights and what you can do to secure them. Read on to see what we know about the best day to book flights, how to get a deal, and what experts have to say about it all.
Best Day To Book Flights by Airline
First off, though, a quick summary. While there’s a lot more to it than this table may imply, it’s good to know that it can vary by airline, and it’s worth continuing to check prices as you plan your trips. We’ve scoured the web, and according to multiple sources, here are generally the best days to book flights by airline:
|Airline||Best Day to Book Flights|
The Best Day to Book Flights – In Terms of Making the Purchase
Let’s address the elephant in the room first and expand on what we said above – no, despite the widespread myth, Tuesday is not the best day of the week to buy plane tickets. You should not solely base your purchase decisions on a day of the week.
The truth is that flight prices fluctuate dramatically and can even change from minute to minute. This is because airline tickets are based on little more than supply and demand. They don’t really care about what day of the week it is – just how many seats they’ve sold, how many seats they think they can sell, and how many are left.
You may find studies from sites like Google Flights and Skyscanner, which conduct millions of price searches per day, that purport to find that fares are the tiniest bit cheaper on mid-week days like Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. But these savings are in the realm of one percent, and they can’t be tied directly to the day of the week. Therefore, do not rely on these findings to get the best flight price.
The reality is that the best flight deal can be found on any day of the week and at any time of the day. But so can the worst flight deal. That’s why it’s essential to properly utilize what you can control before you buy flights.
The Best Day to Book Flights – In Terms of Actually Flying
While Tuesday might be a myth in terms of finding your cheap flight deals, it does have some significance – it can be one of the cheapest days to actually take your flight. It is definitely no joke that flights that depart on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are cheaper than those on the rest of the week.
Again, this relates to the supply and demand of the tickets. Many vacationers have weekends off from work and want to use that time as part of their trip, while business travelers may need to fly on weekends to make it to their destination for the work week. Therefore, airlines make it more expensive to fly on those high-demand days and incentivize flying on less busy days with lower fares.
This rule applies to both domestic and international trips but is slightly less significant for the latter. Friday, Saturday, and Monday are the next cheapest but can be the worst days to book on holiday weekends. The day you’re least likely to find cheap flights is Sunday.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at how big of a difference that makes, anyway. I’ve put in a few round-trip fares from New York (JFK) to London (LHR and changed the departing and arriving dates a bit. Take a look at the differences:
|Round Trip Dates||Fare|
|Tue, May 28 – Tue, Jun 4||$782|
|Sat, Jun 1 – Sat, Jun 8||$832|
The difference can be even larger on less popular routes, or during peak seasons. I checked a Philadelphia (PHL) to Denver (DEN) route during a common Spring Break week during ski season:
|Round Trip Dates||Fare|
|Sun, Mar 3 – Wed, Mar 6||$420|
|Thu, Mar 14 – Sun, Mar 17||$570|
You can check this out on your own very easily for a route or two of your choice, and you’ll probably find it to be true. Just utilize a price grid or flexible dates search on a site like Google Flights so that you can visualize a whole week or month of prices. We’ll discuss that more below, but you will see something like the screenshot above – note the price differences based on the day of the week.
The Best Day to Book Flights – In Terms of How Far Out to Book
There’s another key component to deciding when to buy airline tickets, and that’s how many days, weeks, or months in advance you do it. This is another factor that definitely does influence the fare you’ll pay.
As we’ll see below, the general rule is that the closer you get to departure, the higher fares will be. But booking as soon as the schedule is published a year in advance isn’t the best idea either. Both have a common theme: people booking at these intervals definitely want to travel and will pay a premium for it.
How far out to look for cheap flights actually differs slightly between domestic flights and international ones. Domestic airfare has been found to be at its cheapest one to three months before departure, while flights abroad have a sweet spot five or six months out. Of course, your results may vary – that’s why it’s important to use all the knowledge and tips to find cheap fares at your disposal.
Booking in advance is definitely a significant contributor to the price you’ll pay. Utilize price alerts and canceling/rebooking methods that we’ll describe later to maximize savings.
See Related: Best Websites for Cheap Flights and Hotels
When You Shouldn’t Book Flights
Now that we’ve seen a bit of the broad science behind flight prices on different days, we can get more specific. To make it clearest, let’s break it down by when you shouldn’t book flights – at least if flight costs are your priority.
During a Destination’s High Season
Leisure travelers are certainly aware that different destinations have high seasons and low seasons. And which of these you travel during will have a serious effect on flight prices – again, airlines will charge more when the demand is high.
While there are far too many seasonality trends to list, a few are rather constant, and you should do research on your particular destination at the earliest of planning. Summertime is a prime travel season for most places, thanks to great weather and no school. This is especially true for international destinations in Europe, where summer holidays are basically as important as food, water, and shelter.
In the winter, destinations like Mexico and the Caribbean skyrocket in popularity to avoid the summer hurricane season and to provide an escape from the cold. Domestic trips to places like Florida and Hawaii will definitely be more expensive, too.
Book a flight just outside of the high season, if possible. In fact, shoulder season – the weeks immediately before and after high season – can be some of the most enjoyable times to travel, thanks to smaller crowds, great weather, and lower prices.
Around Major Holidays
This tip is directly correlated with the above point, but it’s worth mentioning separately. Holidays mean no work, and no work means take a vacation – at least for travel-obsessed people like you and me.
There’s also the fact that people want to be with family and friends during times like Thanksgiving and Christmas, making the days surrounding them some of the busiest and most expensive of the whole year. These are great days to not book flights, if possible.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re flying internationally or domestically, as it will always be more expensive for these reasons. But when flying abroad, it might be worth checking your destination country’s national holidays, as you might be visiting during a busy time without even knowing it.
See Related: Best Christmas Vacations in the United States
You can find some crazy-cheap travel deals when booking cruises at the last minute – ships have empty rooms that are highly unlikely to sell in the days or weeks before the voyage, and they will heavily discount the price. Important note: this does NOT apply to airline tickets.
Think about who needs to travel on very short notice – business people who need to be somewhere, vacationers who need to change their plans, and people who generally need to get somewhere quickly. The common denominator is that these groups are not sensitive to price, and airlines know it.
Therefore, do not wait until the days or weeks before a trip to book it! It is highly likely that fares will rise as the date of departure gets closer and closer. If you’re itching for a last-minute getaway, look to the nearest cruise port.
Best Practices to Find Cheap Flights
We did a whole article on how exactly to find cheap flights, as there are a ton of tricks and methods you can learn. But here is a quick snapshot of a few of the most important ones to know when considering the best day to book flights.
Sign Up for Cheap Flight Finding Services
The best way of finding cheap flights is to let the experts do it for you – no concern about the best day or time required. There are services out there that exist solely to scour the internet in search of ridiculous flight deals and to alert their subscribers about them. Our favorites include:
These teams work around the clock searching for domestic and international flight deals departing from anywhere and heading to anywhere. To become a member, you just have to sign up and tell them which airports you can depart from. After that, they will email you the moment they spot fares that are too good to pass up.
Premium members that pay a small fee get access to the absolute best deals, including coveted mistake fares. Premium or not, you’ll get these alert emails in real-time, and then it’s up to you to make the purchase or not. There’s no reason not to be signed up – who doesn’t want to see what kind of great deals they can come up with for you?
Utilize The Right Search Engines
Even if you’re a subscriber to one of the above, you’ll surely want to explore routes and dates on your own. It’s important to use a quality site for this in order to minimize the time you spend and maximize your savings. Our favorites include:
These sites are aggregators that will display the fares of most airlines with a single search, eliminating the need to visit potentially dozens of different airline websites. The one major exception is Southwest Airlines, which does not allow its flights to be displayed on third-party sites. It happens that they often do offer the cheapest flight, so don’t forget to check their site separately.
There are a ton of methods to properly use sites like Google Flights, Momondo, and Skyscanner, including having a flexible departure date, having a flexible destination, tracking prices, and avoiding filters. We’ll detail a few that are specific to considering when to book.
Track Flight Prices
One of the best tools on those search engines is the ability to track prices and get notified of changes as they happen. This is totally free and just requires either an email address or downloading the site’s travel booking app, if it has one, in order to receive the notifications. You’ll see a button at the top of the screen on Momondo, Skyscanner, and Google Flights for this after you perform a search, and it’s as simple as clicking it.
While you should set up price drop notifications for any trip you want to take, these are especially useful when used well in advance. Since the prime booking window can vary and could be as many as six months out, knowing when there are significant price changes is an important secret weapon to have in the search for the best day to book flights.
Cancel and Rebook Based on Price Drops
I love this tip – it’s one of the few great things that came out of the pandemic! When no one wanted to fly, and airlines were desperate for business, most of them got rid of their much-hated cancellation fees in an attempt to encourage bookings. Nowadays, if you don’t want to take a flight, most airlines will let you cancel it for a travel credit of the same amount.
This is great for price watchers. Simply set up price alerts using the above methods, even if you already have your flights booked, and wait for a notification.
If and when the fare becomes lower than what you paid, cancel your ticket and rebook it immediately with the credit at the new price. You now have an unexpected flight credit for the amount of the price difference to use next time!
You can do this all the way up until departure to ensure you get the best price possible. I have personally had tons of success with this awesome travel hack. It works on both domestic and international flights on most full-service airlines as long as you don’t book basic economy.
Look at Trends
Most flight search engines also have the useful function of providing price insights – you’ll find this in the same spot as the price tracking button on Momondo, as well as another button on the top to view a graph. On Google Flights, there’s usually a drop-down button to view price history along with booking advice.
You’ll see advice about your particular route and dates that will tell you whether prices are low, average, or high, and in some cases, whether the system thinks you should book now or wait. It comes up with this based on watching millions of prices at every minute of the day, creating predictions based on past information. It can be quite accurate.
You can also take a look at the data yourself and view the graph of prices over the past few months. If you see volatility, with highs and lows consistently, it could be a good idea to wait for a low. If you see a progressive decrease, it could be a great time to get a deal; if you see the opposite, you might decide to book before it gets worse or choose different dates or destinations in general.
Rack Up Airline Miles
The true cheapest day to book flights is the one on which you don’t have to pay any money. There are few more satisfying things in life than getting amazing value from your frequent flier miles, hotel points, or credit card programs.
That is why it is essential to be signed up for the loyalty program of any airline you fly or hotel you stay at. Every mile flown or dollar spent is free travel earned towards your next trip! Loyalty programs are totally free and easy to enroll in.
Note that reward travel pricing is often dynamic – that means it fluctuates just like cash fares. Therefore, there can be a cheapest day to book flights using miles, too, and it’s usually tied to fares. So, use the same advance booking logic even when you’re traveling for free.
Have Flexible Travel Dates
Any seasoned airfare expert will tell you that flexibility is the most important part of finding the cheapest airfare possible. As we’ve seen, certain days, periods, and seasons provide huge clues for finding the cheapest dates to fly. Being able to shift your trip in response to these is indispensable.
Of course, we don’t always have the luxury of unlimited flexibility. There are work schedules to be respected, important events you can’t miss, and more. But even the smallest changes can have a big impact.
Have Flexibility With Your Destination
More flexibility means more savings. If you can tolerate some alterations to your ideal arrival airport or destination in general, you can worry less and less about finding the ideal day to book.
Dreaming of the islands but need a domestic flight that doesn’t require a passport? Look to Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the US Virgin Islands. All of them are sure to fulfill your seaside desires, and the more islands you add to your search, the easier it is to find the best deal on the internet. The same goes for mountains, cities, and other types of trips.
Furthermore, consider alternative destinations that can ultimately get you to your desired destination but cost less money. A prime example involves my home airport in the south of France, Nice, which is notoriously expensive to fly in and out of.
My solution? Utilize Milan, Italy’s three airports – they are significantly cheaper, just four hours away by a cheap train ride, and in a place with great food for the journey!
What to Do If You Find a Good Flight Deal
So, you worked the system to find the best day possible to book your flight. Congratulations! There are a few more things to get right, though, to make sure all your savings don’t go to waste later in the trip.
Don’t forget that any ticket involving a US airport is always cancellable for a refund within 24 hours of actually making the booking (although many major airlines around the world have the same policy). This rule applies as long as the booking is made more than seven days before departure. Therefore, it’s usually safe to book and lock in a deal before it’s gone and then worry about these things in the hours that follow.
Double Check Important Details
You should double-check all information about your trip before booking flights. If you’re planning international travel, ensure your passport is good for at least six months before you leave and that the destination will accept it.
Also, don’t forget to keep safe copies of all documents, such as visas and travel permits, along with confirmation numbers and information about the hotel or package tours. You never know when something may go wrong or if your bank has a problem, so you should have all your information ready.
Finally, ensure you know everything about your airline before making the purchase. It is a horrible surprise to arrive at the gate and be charged a small fortune for an oversized carry-on or to learn that the secondary airport they fly to is nowhere near your destination city.
Check Your Travel Insurance
Do not go on a trip without the appropriate travel insurance! This point is very important, and unfortunately, many travelers don’t realize that until something goes wrong. It is much, much better to be prepared for the worst and to return home without ever having needed your preparations.
Travel insurance can mean many things – trip cancellation, luggage damage, rental car, and many forms of medical coverage. Not all travel insurance applies to every trip, and it’s usually easy to pick a package that’s tailored to your needs. Travel insurance is usually inexpensive, and anyone who’s been there when things go south knows what a lifesaver it is.
Many credit cards offer some form of travel or trip insurance as a benefit – check yours to see which is the best. You can also use sites like TravelInsurance.com to search packages based on price and coverage. We’re big fans of World Nomads.
Know Your Rights as a Passenger
Many non-travelers I talk with hesitate to go on big vacations because they’re worried about the things that can go wrong. “What if my flight gets canceled? Won’t I just lose all my money?” or “If I get delayed overnight, I’ll have to either sleep on the airport floor or pay for a hotel!”
While inconveniences certainly happen, you should never be in positions like that! Know that a canceled flight means your airline must put you on the next one, free of charge, even if that’s with a different airline. If a cancellation or delay extends overnight, the airline must book you a hotel, pay for it, arrange your transportation, and provide you with meals. Not so horrible, right?
Delays and cancellations can even be pleasant in certain parts of the world. In the European Union, when a flight is canceled or extremely delayed due to reasons within the airline’s control, they must do all of the above, plus provide each passenger with cash compensation – not travel credits, not food vouchers, but money. This can be up to 600 Euros per person, which is a lovely bright side to an unfortunate travel day.
More Ways to Save
Narrowing down the right day to book, utilizing cheap flight-finding tactics, and ensuring your preparation for travel aren’t the only ways to make sure you get a deal. There are other travel expenses to minimize to ensure you really are getting a deal.
Sites like Skyscanner and Momondo are great for flights and just as great for cars and hotels. Just like with the airlines, your search will return results for nearly all possible rooms and cars available at your destination, and you’ll be able to sort through them based on price, location, and other factors. These prices also fluctuate much like airfare – check often, set up price alerts, and book in advance to save.
If you’re headed to a major city, check to see if there are any destination passes available rather than purchasing individual attraction tickets. When you plan to visit more than one, these types of passes can save you a lot of cash. Many cities in North America are available on CityPASS, while others have their own unique ones.
Finally, make sure you are using the right credit card for all of your travel and general everyday expenses. Almost every airline and hotel chain offers a co-branded card that allows you to earn points and miles plus benefit from trip insurance, lounge passes, and more. You can also use a generic travel program card, like the American Express Platinum Card, to earn points that can be redeemed for any flight or room.
See Related: Best Credit Cards With Lounge Access (Ranked!)
Expert Opinion: When’s the Best Day to Book International Flights?
While we consider ourselves expert travelers here at ViaTravelers, and we’ve had great success in booking flights strategically based on all of these factors, it’s great to hear the advice of true industry insiders. We asked a travel consultant, Dawn Holland, about flight availability for international travel. Here are some key points:
- The most important factor in flight pricing is availability. You can often find better pricing if you can plan and are flexible with your dates or times. Many corporate travelers fly out on Sunday or Monday morning and return on Friday afternoon.
- Leisure travelers or travelers returning from conferences and incentive trips frequently return on Sundays. If you can avoid Sunday travel, and fly in the early morning or late evening, it can be easier to find availability on flights. Most people don’t like being at the airport at 5 a.m. or landing at midnight if they can help, so these flights typically don’t fill up as fast.
- Planning early is the key if you’re traveling for holidays or spring break. Holiday travelers plan in late summer months, like August and September, while spring break travelers usually start in November and December.
- April and May are great times to travel to the Caribbean. Hurricane season is typically from June to November. Occasionally, there’s hurricane activity in May, which can be a gamble, but not as much as July-September. Since the Caribbean is a popular winter destination, the off-season (April-November) rates are usually slightly lower at many resorts.
- Thailand can also be an economical destination during the low season (May-October); however, the weather may not be ideal. It’s typically hot and humid, but flights and hotels are normally more affordable.
What Are the Most Important Factors in Determining Flight Prices?
The most important factor is the availability of seats on a plane. If there’s just one flight a day to Costa Rica, that flight will be very expensive since there’s a monopoly on the route, creating limited seats.
For example, flights to Cabo San Lucas seem to be sky-high. People feel comfortable flying to Mexico, but there’s a lack of flights flying in and out of SJD. If we had two more flights a day, it would reduce the cost because Delta, United, American, and Southwest wouldn’t be able to charge the prices they do.
What Makes Flight Prices Cheap?
Cheaper flights are available to places with several airlines flying into them. Las Vegas and Dallas-Fort Worth are good examples since several large airlines use these airports as hubs.
Weather is another factor. It’s cheaper to fly to Phoenix when it’s 110 degrees because no one wants to be in that heat.
See Related: Amazing Southwestern Vacation Destinations
What Are the Cheapest Cities to Fly to (Around The World)?
I wish there was an easier answer, as it depends on many factors. Quick and short getaways within the USA from major cities will be less expensive. Internationally, it’s some Caribbean Islands and Central American countries that will offer the lowest fares, as Europe and Asia flights seem to have no price limit nowadays.
See Related: How Long Does It Take to Travel Around The World
What day of the week is best to book a flight?
There is no one “best” day of the week to book a flight, as airfare prices can fluctuate for a variety of reasons. However, to save money on airfare, you should consider booking flights well in advance, be flexible with your travel dates, and keep a close eye on airfare deals with your preferred airline.
Do flight prices get cheaper closer to the date of travel?
No, it’s usually quite the opposite! Airlines know that anyone who needs to buy airline tickets very close to the date of the flight probably really needs to go and, therefore, will probably pay more than usual. Therefore, you’ll find that fares get higher and higher in the weeks leading up to the date of travel. Follow our advice above and book in advance!
When is the best time to buy your plane ticket for holiday travel?
If you want to find the absolute best prices, you might want to try booking your holiday travel by the end of October for a cheaper fare. Experts recommend booking Christmas flights 61 to 90 days before the holiday. The airfare may be lower than when you book before or after this prime booking window.
Are there any tools or apps that can help me find the cheapest flights?
There are definitely many great ones – first and foremost, sign up for a deal-finding service like Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights) so that you benefit from amazing deals without doing any searching. Of course, you’ll probably want to do some exploring yourself; in that case, use a site like Momondo or Skyscanner. With those, you’ll see all airlines operating the route, plus have the ability to set up price drop notifications and see fare trends.