When’s the best time to book flights?

Save big on flights to your next vacation with these helpful tips.

6 min read

Working out the best time to book flights can be confusing. With so much conflicting advice out there, it can be hard to work out what’s true and what’s not. So, we’ve compiled a guide to help you figure out exactly when to book your next adventure. Read on to find out!

When’s the cheapest time to book flights?

Flight prices can fluctuate wildly. This might seem random at first, but there is actually a strategy behind it. Airlines use a set of complex predictive algorithms to estimate how many seats will be sold on a flight. For a flight to become profitable, this algorithm then tells the airline:

  • How many seats need to be sold

  • By what date

  • At what price

So, if a flight passes a certain date and there are still many seats available, prices are likely to drop to encourage more ticket sales. However, if there are fewer seats available than expected, the prices will rise.

While we can’t predict how quickly a flight will fill up, there are some general trends you should take into consideration when booking your next flight. For example, according to Opodo, it’s nearly always cheapest to travel in January, and July is consistently the most expensive month to fly. 

Let’s look at some other trends to factor in when choosing the best time to book a flight.

What’s the cheapest day of the week to book flights?

Some travelers swear that Tuesday is the cheapest day to book flights, while other sources insist it’s Sunday. In 2018, Business Insider dubbed Wednesday the day to snag the cheapest airfare. The following year, Skyscanner claimed it was Saturday

The Tuesday myth comes from the fact that many US airlines open up their flight sales on Monday night or midnight Tuesday morning. But Bloomberg reports that you’ll likely only save about 6% overall on any given Tuesday, according to data from airline research company Hopper.

Hopper suggests you’re likely to find a better price when booking mid-week—Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday—but warns that there’s not really a magic day where you’ll find the best bargains. Airline prices change constantly, and will depend on where you are, where you’re going, and when you want to fly. Research the route you plan on taking so you know what to expect in terms of pricing. That way, when you find a super deal, you’ll be able to pounce. To save you some time, download a price-tracking app to your smartphone to alert you when the best deals become available.

How early should you book a flight to get the best deal?

Working out how long to leave it before booking your flight can feel like playing a game of chicken. However, the rules of the game change depending on:

  • 1. Whether you’re booking a long-haul or short-haul flight

  • 2. When you want to go on your vacation

When’s the best time to book a long-haul flight?

When it comes to long-haul flights, the safest bet is to book well in advance. This means booking your trip around 2–8 months ahead of time to get the most out of those cheaper prices. If you can stomach it, last-minute bargains are usually available 1-4 weeks before you go—but these cheaper tickets aren’t guaranteed. 

Some airlines will even increase the price shortly before the departure date to cash in on any lucrative last-minute business class travelers. So, risk-takers be warned—if you hold out for a cheap plane ticket, you could be left holding your luggage with nowhere to go. 

When’s the best time to book a short-haul flight?

Unlike long-haul flights, short-haul flight prices tend to be more predictable. It’s nearly always better to book them as soon as they become available. These quick, commuter flights tend to fill up more quickly than their long-haul counterparts. 

What are the cheapest times to fly?

In general, the cheapest times to fly are when other people don’t want to. Think: early morning or extremely late-night flights. Seasonality also has a huge impact on flight prices. When it comes to deciding when to fly and when to book flights, Investopedia has a few useful tips:

  • If you’re traveling in spring, be aware that many travelers will book their vacations during the Easter break. If you can, try to book outside of the Easter holidays, and aim to grab your ticket around 94 days in advance.

  • Summer is by far the most popular time to travel. As a result, it can be difficult to find a bargain flight. If you’re planning a summer vacation, be sure to buy your flights at least 99 days in advance.

  • Fall is a good time to travel. Prices are generally cheaper as travelers are financially recovering from their summer vacations. So, you can leave booking your flights a little later, around 69 days in advance, and still get a good price.

  • Traveling around Christmas and New Year is always pricey, but if you can delay your vacation until later on in January, this is one of the cheapest months to fly. If you are planning on booking a flight during the festive season, however, Investopedia recommends doing so at least 99 days in advance.

Is it better to book flights directly with the airline?

Generally, it’s better to book your flights directly with an airline rather than an online travel agency (OTA). This is because it better protects you against any changes in your flight schedule including delays, booking changes, and cancellations. 

It’s often much easier to receive compensation directly from the airline than it is going through an OTA. That’s because the OTA acts as a middleman between you and the airline, which adds another level of bureaucracy between you and your money. What’s more, you may miss out on any perks or reward programs that airlines offer.

Our tip? Use a flight comparison website to find the cheapest fares available, then book your tickets with the airline directly.

5 quick tips to consider the next time you book a flight

So, let’s round everything up so you can make a well-informed decision the next time you book a flight:

  • Be strategic with the day and time you book your flight. Research your route thoroughly, and consider using a price-tracking app to stay on top of deals.

  • Risk-takers beware. Grabbing a last-minute bargain on a long-haul flight isn’t unheard of, but it’s not a sure thing. Also, don’t hold out for cheap flights on short-haul flights, as these are much rarer to come by.

  • Always consider seasonality when flying (i.e., Christmas and Easter) and, if you can, book a flight in January. This is nearly always the cheapest month to fly.

  • Choose off-peak times to fly. Early morning and late-night flights are often cheaper as they’re inconvenient times to travel.

  • Book your flights directly with the airline rather than an online travel agency. This gives you more control over your booking, and will likely make it easier to rebook or receive compensation in the event of delays or cancellations.

Your money at N26

If you’re looking for an additional way to protect yourself against cancellations, delays, or lost luggage, N26 You and N26 Metal customers enjoy extensive travel insurance benefits, built right into their bank account. Worried about COVID messing up your travel plans? Both accounts include pandemic travel insurance to cover you in the event you have to change your plans due to COVID-19. Don’t let unnecessary travel stress stop you from enjoying your vacation. We’ll help safeguard you from life’s surprises so you can enjoy the ride!

By N26

The Mobile Bank

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