Booking the cheapest flight has always been a bit of a dark art. There are all sorts of conflicting advice on the best ways to get the cheapest flights, the best days to book, the best months to book, and more.
If you have flexibility on the day and time of your flight, you can choose the cheapest flights and save some money. Now that you have an idea on when is the cheapest time to fly, let’s take a look at the cheapest days to book the flight.
The cheapest day to book a flight is Saturday while the most expensive day is Monday. You will save even more by making sure you book 4 months to 3 weeks in advance, which will give you a 17% discount or a $65 saving on a $375 flight.
You are supposed to book either as soon as possible before the price shoots up or as late as possible to get those elusive last-minute deals.
Before we dive into the best time to book a flight, let’s take a look at the best time to fly both domestically and internationally.
- Cheapest days to fly: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday
- Most expensive days to fly: Fridays and Sundays
- Best times of the day to fly: The times that most people do not want to fly, such as dawn, red-eye, lunchtime, and dinner time
- Cheapest month to fly: January
- Next cheapest months to fly: September & October
- Most expensive months to fly: July
- Cheapest days to fly: Weekdays
- Most expensive days to fly: Weekends
- Cheapest months to fly: January & February
Cheapest Days to Book a Domestic Flight
You have probably heard the advice that it is better to book your flights on Tuesdays than any other days of the week. Specifically, if you book your flights on Tuesday afternoons at around 3 pm EST, you have the best chance of getting the cheapest flights.
The reason usually given was that many US airlines put their discounted airfares on their websites late Monday or early Tuesday, and their competitors then matched these newly lowered prices and this process was typically finished by Tuesday afternoon around 3 pm EST. So, that is the time when you have the most deals to choose from.
While that advice may have been sound 15 or even 10 years ago. It is no longer valid now. Today, airfares are determined by computer algorithms that change and adapt to market conditions continuously in real time. So, the reasoning of “wait till Tuesday afternoon when all the airlines have caught up with their price-matching” no longer makes sense.
In this age of algorithms, to find the cheapest day of the week to book a flight, we need to analyze the data of actual airfares. Skyscanner, an online travel agency, did just that. Based on their data of flight booking, the cheapest day to book a domestic flight is Saturday, not Tuesday. Meanwhile, the most expensive day to book a domestic flight is Monday.
More importantly, the average airfare turns out to fluctuate very little over the course of a week.
|Day of Booking||Average Airfare|
As you can see from the table above, the average domestic airfare barely changes based on the day of booking. The cheapest day to book a flight, Saturday, is cheaper than the most expensive day to book, Monday by less than $4.
So yes, timing your booking to book your flight on a Saturday may save you some money, but on average you will save less than $4 on a domestic flight, giving you about a 1% discount.
You are much better off focusing on other ways to save, such as how far in advance to book, what days to fly, and what months to fly. See the sections below for more detail on these more impactful ways to save on your flights.
How Far in Advance to Book a Domestic Flight
1 year before scheduled flight date: This is when a flight is typically released by the airline for booking. The prices tend to start pretty high
1 year to 270 days (9 months) before flight date: The ticket prices will typically stay more or less the same during this period. In some cases, they may even increase slightly
270 days to 210 days (7 months) before flight date: The ticket prices will start to drop around 270 days before the flight date and will continue to do so. By the time it is 210 days (7 months) before the flight date, the ticket prices will have dropped by 7% on average.
For a domestic flight that costs $375, that amounts to a $25 reduction to $350. While the ticket price will continue to drop beyond this point, seat availability will begin to become limited.
If you are particular about the type of seat you want and you want to make sure you get what you want, you should try to book your flight 7 months in advance
210 days to 120 days (4 months) before flight date: The ticket prices will continue to drop during this time. By the time it is 120 days (4 months) before the flight date, the ticket prices will have dropped by 14% on average.
For a domestic flight that costs $375, that amounts to a $50 reduction to $325. The ticket price will continue to drop, but the flight will get more and more filled up. If you do not want to cut it too close, now is a good time to book
120 days to 21 days (3 weeks) before flight date The ticket prices will continue to drop slowly, reaching their lowest points at about 80 days before the flight date. At that point, you will get about a 17% discount on the starting prices.
For a domestic flight that costs $375, that amounts to a $65 reduction to $310. After that, the prices will start to creep up slowly until it is 21 days (3 weeks) before the flight date. During this entire period, from 120 days to 21 days (3 weeks) before the flight date, the ticket prices still generally stay within 5% of their lowest points.
If you are bargain hunting, any time within this period is a good time to book. The downside is that you might not be able to get the type of seat you want by the time you are ready to book
20 days to 14 days (2 weeks) before flight date – The ticket prices tend to make a substantial jump at 20 days before the flight date and remain steady for the following week.
But even after this jump in prices, you will still pay less than the initial prices – about 8% less on average.
For a domestic flight that costs $375, that amounts to a $30 reduction to $345. If you want to get a discount on your flight, hurry up, this is your last chance
13 days to 7 days (1 week) before flight date – The ticket prices will make another big jump at 13 days before the flight date, exceeding their initial prices. By the time it is 7 days (1 week) before the flight date, you will have to pay a 12% premium on average over the initial ticket prices.
For a domestic flight that costs $375, that amounts to a $45 premium resulting in a price of $420. But the worst is yet to come. So, if you can book now, do not delay any longer
6 days before flight date to day of the flight – The ticket prices will take another huge jump at 6 days before the flight date and keep increasing steeply from that point on. At 6 days before departure, you will pay a 28% premium on average or $480 for a ticket that initially costs $375.
On the day of the flight, you will be paying a 60% premium on average or $600 for a $375 ticket.
To summarize, the cheapest time to book a domestic flight is between 120 days to 21 days (4 months to 3 weeks) before the flight date. You will get a 17% discount on average. For a $375 flight, you will save about $65 and pay $310 instead.
How Far in Advance to Book a Holiday Flight
The above figures apply to the average domestic airfare across the entire year. It turns out that seasonality makes a big difference in the optimal times to buy a ticket.
Flights in different seasons require different strategies in getting the cheapest prices:
- Spring Flights – the cheapest time to book is between 120 days and 45 days (4 months and 1.5 months) before the flight date
- Summer Flights – the cheapest time to book is between 150 days and 21 days (5 months and 3 weeks) before the flight date
- Fall Flights – the cheapest time to book is between 110 days and 21 days (3.5 months and 3 weeks) before the flight date
- Winter Flights – the cheapest time to book is between 120 days and 75 days (4 months and 2.5 months) before the flight date
Benjamin is a certified financial advisor, with over 10 years of experience in the industry. He is knowledgeable about various business and financial topics, such as retirement planning and investment management. Ben has been recognized for his work in the financial planning industry. He has also been featured in various publications.