Are you in need of a vacation, but have a bank account that disagrees? With a bit of forethought, you don't have to choose between a holiday and fiscal responsibility.
CheapAir.com analyzed over 917 million airfares and nearly 3 million individual trips in 8,000 markets to determine the best and worst time to buy plane tickets this year. Here are some of their findings.
Booking 169 to 319 days in advance will get you the best selection — but not the cheapest tickets.
It pays to wait.
You'll get the biggest selection of airlines and seats if you book 169 to 319 days in advance, but you'll also pay $50 more per ticket on average.
Booking a flight 122 to 168 days in advance will have you spending around $20 more on average.
Lock in dates with a good selection but pay a $20 premium.
Booking between 21 and 121 days in advance is the prime booking window.
You want to book your flight 3 to 17 weeks in advance.
Fares tend to be within 5% of the lowest price when you book during this window.
You're pushing your luck if you buy tickets 14 to 20 days before your flight ...
Don't try this around the holidays.
Fares begin to rise two to three weeks before any given flight, and popular flights will begin to book out. You definitely don't want to try this around the holiday season.
... but you're playing with fire if you book your ticket seven to 13 days before take-off.
Deals are a long shot.
Not only will you pay $35 more than the people who book their flights way in advance (169 to 319 days before), but getting a good deal is a long shot.
Booking your flight 0 to 6 days in advance is by far the worst option.
Paying 0 to 6 days in advance is expensive and stressful.
CheapAir calls this the "Hail Mary" of booking flights, because you'll end up paying an average of $208 more than during the prime booking window of 21 to 121 days in advance.
Additionally, this year Wednesday is the cheapest day to fly.
Travel on a Wednesday if you can.
Wednesday offers the cheapest flights this year, followed closely by Tuesday. Sunday is the most expensive day to fly and will end up costing you an average of $76 more than a Wednesday flight.
That said, the prime booking window depends on the season.
It's best to buy tickets 14 to 160 days in advance over the summer, 21 to 110 days in advance over autumn/winter, and 46 to 122 days in advance over spring.