Updated: Apr 29, 2018
In 2017, for flights within the continental U.S., 70 days in advance was the best time to buy your airline ticket on average. This is a bit higher than last year, when the magic number was 54 days in advance.
Now before you go setting calendar alerts to remind yourself to buy all upcoming flights precisely 70 days out from your ideal travel date, keep in mind these are average numbers. And while averages can be a great guide, they should not be thought of as hard and fast rules. When you drill down into the individual trips, the best time to book varied based on markets, travel dates and the individual traveler preferences. This variation is captured by what we call the “prime booking window.”
CLAIM TO A SHARE OF THE BARGAINS
(approximately 6 – 11 months) If being the early bird is your style, then you’re in the early birds club (169-319 days before travel) zone. When you book this early you’re almost certainly going to pay a premium for airfare (about $50 more on average), and you’re going to watch people on your flight get better “deals” in the future when fare sales start to kick in. The airlines like to allow themselves the wiggle room to adjust flight price when the demand (or lack thereof) becomes apparent. But there is still a good argument for buying early. When you buy early you have a bevy of flight options that can shrink as the flight dates get closer. When you’re at the head of the line you can choose your seat (and make sure your group sits together), and fly at the time you prefer, getting the pick of the best itineraries for any given pair of cities. So you might find it worth the extra cash.
You waited this long to buy? We’re praying for you, dear traveler. Last-minute fares are considered the “Hail Mary” zone, so-named for obvious reasons – you’re likely to pay more (on average a whopping $208 more) than buying during the “Prime Booking” window, and you’ll surely face more limited choice in seats (oh, the dreaded center seat!).
When to Buy Spring Flights Springtime is a bit tricky. On the one hand, there are no major travel holidays to drive up prices on specific dates. On the other hand, “spring break” dates cover March through April and inspire travel from college students and families with kids alike. So, in general, planning ahead is key for snagging better prices.
• Exactly 3 months (90 days) from your travel date on average is the optimal time to buy airfare for spring air travel. • Prime Booking Window is 46 – 122 days from travel. Because you have a larger window to get the best fares, buying early is not a gamble. • The difference between the best and worst priced day is $263.