Figuring out the best time to make airline reservations is sort of like playing the stock market. Pricing is ever-changing and based on somewhat mysterious algorithms, so getting a great rate is often a matter of good luck combined with good timing.
That being said, there are a several things you can do to improve your odds.
The more flexibility you have, the better. If you can travel midweek and avoid holidays, you’ll usually get better itineraries at better prices. We often have great luck, for example, choosing flight itineraries that have Tuesday or Wednesday departures.
To help determine which days of the week have the best rates, there are web sites, like Kayak.com, that allow you to search a range of dates. This way you can get an idea of which departure and return dates offer the best pricing. We often use tools like this when helping our clients, with one important caveat that leads us to the next point …
Beware of Bargain Fares!
When a fare looks too good to be true, it probably is. Does the flight have multiple stops and long layovers? Does the price include a seat assignment? What are the baggage rules? When you compare apples to apples, the “cheap” fare may actually turn out to be more expensive or simply far too undesirable.
Sometimes choosing a different departure or arrival city can make a big difference. For instance, if you live in an area like Southern California or New York with more than one airport nearby, it’s smart to check fares at multiple departure points.
The same goes for your arrival. If you’re traveling to Europe and have some flexibility, it may be better to fly into a major city like Amsterdam or London or Paris and then make additional arrangements to get to your final destination.
Believe it or not, the actual day of the week you choose to search for flights can make a difference. We have seen better rates when searching for airfare on a Tuesday as opposed to a weekend.
If you’re flying with a foreign carrier that you don’t normally use, check to see which American carrier partners with them. It may be more beneficial to earn miles on your domestic airline.
Also, make sure you pay for your flights with a credit card that will give you the best rewards. After all, international airfare is typically a large expense that will earn lots of points.
If you know you want to travel to a specific destination, sign up for fare alerts from sites like Airfare Watchdog or Sky Scanner (but remember to check the low-price flight itineraries very carefully).
Also, check out the latest “When to Buy Flights” study from CheapAir.com. It analyzes tons of data to come up with the optimal time to purchase flights based not only on pricing, but on your travel style as well.
Remember, though, airfare is only one piece of the travel planning puzzle. To create the best trip overall, it’s helpful to work with a professional who can help you navigate the entire process.
We’re here for you if you need us!