When Is the Best Time to Buy Tickets for Holiday Travel?

Written By Jeff Hindenach
Last updated November 11, 2017

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October 15, 2015

Simple. Thrifty. Living.

An airline ticket can be a pretty big expense, which might be why there are many claims circulating about when the best time to buy an airline ticket is. However, there are some general rules you should be following when it comes to timing your ticket purchase. Here are some strategies to help you get the best deals on your holiday travel flights.

Airlines Reporting Corp., a huge player in airline ticket sales, found that buying a ticket on the weekend actually resulted in the lowest fares for travelers. Tuesday is often considered the best day to purchase airline tickets, and while it’s still the best weekday to purchase a ticket, this data claims otherwise. At the same time, others studies from Expedia still claim Tuesday is the best day to purchase a ticket. According to Expedia, this has to do with airlines routinely releasing the week’s best deals on Monday evening.

If you have the time for it, it’s not a bad idea to compare the weekend prices to Tuesday prices to see what difference, if any, is present. Just remember that prices change all the time, even from one minute to the next. If you’re looking the best price, it might be a good idea to sign up for price alerts to stay in the loop.

The other question that comes up is how long before a flight should you wait to purchase a ticket. Maybe you’ve heard that the earlier you purchase a ticket, the more likely you are to land a better deal. This is generally true, but within limits.

For domestic flights, you should consider booking between 50 to 100 days before your flight departs. For international flights, you should purchase even earlier, with the best fares found between 150 to 250 days before your flight departs. You should also keep holidays in mind as well. Flights around Christmas and Thanksgiving tend to be much more expensive, even if you book well in advance.

While it’s not always possible, booking flights with flexible dates in mind can dramatically reduce the cost of your airfare. For example, leaving on a Thursday and then arriving back on a Monday can be 20 percent cheaper for long-distance flights than departing on a Friday and returning Saturday. If you’ve got a freer schedule, you can experiment with different dates a bit before you book a ticket.

Ultimately, you can find some big savings on airline tickets, but it all comes down to the right timing.

About the Author

Jeff Hindenach

Jeff Hindenach is the co-founder of Simple. Thrifty. Living. He graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. He has a long history of financial journalism, with a background writing for newspapers such as the San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Examiner, as well as writing on personal finance for The Huffington Post, New York Times, Business Insider, CNBC, Newsday and The Street. He believes in giving readers the tools they need to get out of debt.

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