With 2024 fast approaching, you might be wondering: is it too early to start booking your travels? Let’s dive into what the experts say and help you decide the best time to book your next adventure.
Understanding Airline Ticket Pricing
Airline ticket prices are notoriously unpredictable, thanks to complex pricing models. Mark Crossey, a travel expert from Skyscanner, points out that the strongest determinant for airfares is demand. Other factors affecting prices include the flight route, time of year, and special events. Generally, tickets for flights start selling up to a year in advance, marking the beginning of fluctuating prices.
Domestic vs. International Flights
For domestic flights, the ideal booking window is usually one to three months before departure. In contrast, for international journeys, it’s best to book two to eight months in advance. This period is often referred to as the ‘Goldilocks window’—not too early, not too late.
Holiday and Peak Travel Periods
If you’re planning to travel during peak times like the holidays or summer, or to attend popular events, consider booking even earlier. For domestic travel, aim for three to six months out, and for international trips, four to ten months is advisable.
The Best Time to Buy Airline Tickets
There’s a common myth that buying tickets on a specific day of the week (like Tuesday) can save you money. However, deals are released every day of the week. Early week purchases might slightly increase your chances of finding a better deal, according to Crossey.
Cheapest Days to Fly
Midweek flights are typically cheaper. For domestic travel, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are often the least expensive days to fly. For international trips, flying midweek is also usually cheaper.
Finding the Best Airfare Deals
Flight Search Tools
Google Flights is a popular tool thanks to features like the Calendar, which shows a range of airfares over each month. While it’s not a booking tool, it helps you find the best flights and then book directly with the airline.
Price Tracking and Alerts
Flight search sites like Google Flights and Kayak offer price-tracking tools. These allow you to set alerts for changes in the price of a route you’re interested in. This feature is particularly useful for snagging the best price for your flight. Capital One cardholders can also take advantage of great flight searching tools as well. There are price drop alerts and automatic flight drop protection if you book and then your flight gets cheaper within 10 calendar days.
24-Hour Cancellation Policies
Most airlines in the U.S. must allow customers to cancel without penalty within 24 hours for flights booked at least seven days before departure. This policy gives you a window to hold a good fare while you finalize your plans.
Filtering Your Search
You can fine-tune your search based on the number of stops, flight duration, airlines, departure and arrival times, and even the number of bags you plan to check. This helps you find the best deals that meet your specific needs.
Google Flights also has an Explore tool, perfect for brainstorming destinations based on your origin city and desired travel time frame. Similarly, Kayak allows you to include additional airports in your search, broadening your options.
Deal Newsletters and Frequent Flyer Programs
Signing up for deal newsletters like Going.com and Dollar Flight Club can alert you to amazing flight offers. Being a member of airlines’ frequent flyer programs also keeps you in the loop about airfare sales. Some of our favorite travel rewards credit cards make it easy to use their rewards program PLUS earn frequent flyer rewards with your favorite airline.
Do Flight Prices Drop at the Last Minute?
Contrary to popular belief, waiting until the last minute to book airfare isn’t likely to save you money. Prices generally rise significantly after the three-week mark before departure, regardless of the route. It pays to plan ahead.
Booking your 2024 travels now depends on several factors: your destination, the time of year you plan to travel, and how much flexibility you have. While there’s no perfect time to book, understanding these tips and trends can help you make a more informed decision and potentially save money.