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Do Flights Get Cheaper Closer to the Date?

Many people believe that flights are cheap in the days just before they depart because airlines want to sell empty seats. This theory would make a lot of sense, right?

However, the opposite is actually true: flight prices get higher closer to the date. Approximately twenty-one days before a flight is when the price begins to increase. The biggest reason for the increase is business flyers. 

Business travelers tend to book flights last minute, and when they need to travel for work, there is not much flexibility in their schedules, so they are willing to pay a higher price. Since business travelers will book their flights last minute, airlines can sell these tickets at a premium and make more money than selling them cheaply.

On the other hand, people who travel for leisure, like on vacation or to visit family and friends, tend to have more flexibility in their travel schedules. They will often fly on the cheapest flights, even if it means moving their travel dates around. Leisure travelers also book further in advance than business travelers, so they are more likely to get lower prices. 

Just because flight prices go up does not mean that you will be paying a ton of money whenever you want to fly. This article will teach you the best times to fly, the best times to book airfare and more tips that will help you save money on your next flight.

How Many Days Before a Flight is the Best Price?

There is a range of times when you can find the best prices for a flight. The range can differ for domestic and international flights. 

Domestic Flights

For domestic flights, the time that flight prices will decrease and stay at their lowest to average prices begins about three months out from the departure date. You can expect the lowest prices from three months out until approximately three weeks from their departure date. After three weeks away, prices will continue to increase until the flight departs. 

International Flights

As for international flights, the cheapest fares are usually found beginning five months away from the departure date, and they will be the lowest until one month away from the departure. 

One to five months out is the general range, but CheapAir found that the best time to buy will vary by where you are flying to. If you are flying somewhere in the Western Hemisphere, you will find the cheapest flights closer to the departure date compared to flights with a destination in the Eastern Hemisphere.

Here is the full list of the average number of days before the departure date when you can find the cheapest flights by region:

  • Africa: 199 days
  • Asia: 160 days
  • Canada: 115 days
  • Caribbean: 99 days
  • Central America: 78 days
  • Europe: 200 days
  • Mexico: 80 days
  • Middle East: 196 days
  • South America: 84 days
  • South Pacific: 186 days

Can I Book Fares Early for Cheaper Flights?

You can always book flights further in advance than the recommended three to five months, but you will likely pay a little more money. However, there are benefits to booking early, including high availability, both for flights and seats, and a guarantee that you have seats if they sell out, which can happen on popular routes and during holidays.

What is the Cheapest Month to Fly?

Winter is the cheapest time to fly, except for the holidays. The month of January has the lowest airfare after New Year’s. 

According to Scott’s Cheap Flights, January through early May is the cheapest season to fly. You can also find cheaper flights from September through early December, except for the week of Thanksgiving in the United States.

These cheap seasons line up with when most kids are in school because fewer families take vacations during those times. When the weather is colder in the Northern Hemisphere, it is less expensive to travel compared to the warmer months.

When Are Airlines the Most Expensive to Book?

If you wait to book a flight within a few weeks of the flight, you will undoubtedly pay more than the average price. Prices increase immensely within the twenty or so days before a flight, with the prices being the highest in the days before the flight.

Prices will also be highest when you travel during peak seasons. Many people plan vacations in the summer months between June and August. These months have the highest airfare, especially to popular destinations like Europe, Florida, the Caribbean, and Mexico.

Furthermore, flying during holidays can raise your airfare significantly. The second half of December is one of the busiest times to fly because of all the holidays, so airlines charge much higher prices. 

Thanksgiving is the busiest time of year for airports, and it is also the most expensive time to fly. If you are traveling for the holiday, specifically on the Wednesday before and the Sunday after, book as far in advance as possible because flights will only get more expensive, and it is highly unlikely that you will find a deal. 

However, if you are flying on Thanksgiving Day or even the day after, you may find much lower prices than peak days right before and after the holiday. 

You should also consider events in the destination you are flying to. For example, mid-March will have the highest prices if you are flying to Ireland because of St. Patrick’s day. 

Tips for Booking Cheap Flights

Even if you are traveling during the holidays or summer months, there are some tricks you can use to save money on your airfare. 

Use a Cheap Flight Alert Service

There are many services online that will send you cheap flights. While you can’t choose your specific dates and destinations with these services, they will send you many cheap flights that can save you up to ninety percent off average fares. 

Here are some of the cheap flight services that you can use. We have a full review of each one so you can learn more about their services and what benefits they offer.

  • Scott’s Cheap Flights: Sends you cheap flights from US airports to anywhere in the world, with multiple membership options available.
  • Thrifty Traveler Premium: This will help you learn how to travel on a budget from airports anywhere in the world.
  • Matt’s Flights: Cheap flight alerts from airports in the US and Canada.

If you have a specific place or dates in mind, you can use Google Flights to track prices for flights, dates, or places that you are interested in. You set up alerts, and they will email you when there is a price change. Learn more about getting the most out of the free service and what Google Flights can do.

Forgo Extras

You can also save money by buying cheaper class tickets. Many airlines like United and American offer a price level called Basic Economy on many of their routes. These tickets are cheaper than regular economy tickets, but they also have fewer options. 

Both American Airlines and United Airlines basic economy tickets do not allow you to bring any checked bags unless you pay an extra fee. If you are traveling for a short period and do not need a checked bag, booking basic economy tickets can save you some money. 

Neither airline will let you cancel or change your flights with basic economy either, so you should be positive that your trip will happen. American Airlines will give you a carry-on item and pick your seat with a basic economy, but United will not. 

Budget airlines also have cheap flights, but you need to pay extra for many of these same benefits like seat selection, bags, and flight changes.

If you can give up some of these options when you fly, you can get a lower price. 

Have Flexible Dates

Finally, if you are flexible with your travel dates, you are more likely to find a cheaper price. For example, if you are flying for a week-long trip, you may be thinking about flying from Sunday to Friday. However, Fridays and Sundays are the most expensive days to fly. 

The cheapest days to fly are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday. So, if you can change your trip to be from Saturday to Saturday, you can save money on your flights. 

Final Thoughts

Booking flights at the last minute can cost you way more money than you should spend on airfare. Last-minute seats are sold at a premium to business travelers, so if you want to book flights, do so in advance so you can pay the lowest price possible. Consider when and where you are going to fly to plan and get the cheapest flights possible.

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Hayden Wall

Hayden is the founder of Travel Gear Discounts and tries to vacation as much as possible. He loves finding the latest travel accessories that will make getting out easier and planning the perfect weekend getaway.