Whether it’s for the holidays, spring break or summer vacation, it’s never too early to start planning your next trip. That includes scoping out airline tickets.
As a big fan of travel myself, I know the prices for some tickets are enough to make you seriously consider a staycation. But let me reassure you: I’ve never paid an outrageous price for tickets.
That’s because I wait for just the right time to buy. And I’m about to let you in on the secret to saving big.
There are a ton of theories out there about the best day to buy airline tickets. Some say it’s Tuesday at 3 p.m., some say 1 a.m. on a Wednesday, and some say the best time to buy is over the weekend.
So which is it? I’ve done the research to help you get the best deal on your next flight. From the best day to buy to the best day to fly and the best sites to use, I’ve got you covered.
The day to buy
First, let me explain why so many folks think Tuesday is the best day to buy cheap airline tickets.
Airlines often announce deals on Monday evenings, so by Tuesday at noon, other airlines are scrambling to match those deals. That’s why Tuesday afternoons are the best time to hunt for reduced airfares.
Peter Greenberg over at CBS News suggests waiting until 1 a.m. on Wednesday to snag the deals that didn’t get taken on Tuesday. But he also recommends calling the airline and talking to a ticket agent in person, so this one is for the most dedicated money-savers.
Texas A&M University, however, crunched the numbers and found that weekends are actually the best time to book airline tickets. That’s because airlines are more likely to lower their fares on Saturday and Sunday to attract leisure travelers.
The study found that tickets purchased on the weekend were historically an average of 5% cheaper than similar tickets purchased during the week.
Of course, that was only to places with mixed business and leisure settings. Leisure-only destinations, like Las Vegas, don’t change much through the week.
Bonus: Getting there is only half the battle. There one time period that’s the best time to book cheapest summer vacations. Find out when you should book hotel rooms here.
But an even newer study from The Wall Street Journal shows that most people can save an average of $60 by purchasing their tickets on Sundays instead of Tuesdays. The study also showed a significant increase of ticket prices on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
So, what should you do? If you see one airline offering a deal on Monday, make plans to buy your tickets on Tuesday. If there are no deals going on, buy on the weekend.
Of course, that’s not the only bit of money-saving wisdom I have to offer. The day you fly can also make a big difference.
The day to fly
Studies show that flying on Tuesdays is still the best day to fly for less. Fewer people travel on Tuesdays, and less demand means a better deal for you. Friday and Sunday are the most expensive.
The time of day you travel is also important. No one wants to fly at 4 a.m., but you can shave off big bucks from your ticket price if you do.
The first flight of the day, red-eye flights or any flight that coincides with lunchtime or dinner are the best times to fly if you want to pay less.
How early to buy
Here’s something else that is a no-brainer: It pays to buy your tickets early.
A good rule of thumb is that domestic tickets will be at their lowest price six weeks before your date of departure.
Even better: If you know you’re going to be taking a trip, start haunting the sites really early, and when you see a good deal, grab it.
After that six-week point, ticket prices tend to climb up slowly, then spike to their highest point a few days before departure.
Of course, there will always be exceptions to the rule. The airline could have a big sale on flights to a certain city when demand is down, for example.
Sites to use
You can always save yourself the headache of trying to guess the best time to buy tickets by using the Internet to find cheap airfare. There are lots of sites that make it easy to find convenient and affordable flights.
One of these is Google’s Flights site. It lets you pick your starting point and destination, then filter flights by price, length and date. It’s a snap to use. Also, do you need to be there now or do you need to save money? Now Google Flights knows the difference between the “best” flight and the “cheapest” flight. Take a look at the new Google Flights options.
By now, you’ve probably got a good estimate of how much your tickets will cost. Before you book, head over to Kayak.
When you run a search for tickets, you’ll see a Price Trend box in the left-hand column. It tells you whether to buy or wait and Kayak’s confidence level based on whether prices are going up or down. If you want more information about how it made its decision, you can click the box with the lowercase “i”.
At the end of the day, saving money is nice, but remember that vacations are about relaxing. Don’t get so caught up in saving money that you stress yourself out.
In the end, you’ll be happier if you plan your trip early, get a good fare, and get to the airport a little bit early to avoid last-minute rushes and stresses in the security line