What Is the Cheapest Time to Book a Flight?

The cheapest time to book a flight typically falls within the “Prime Booking Window,” which is roughly between 46 to 164 days before your planned departure date. During this period, airfares tend to average within 5% of their lowest prices. Booking during this window allows you to secure relatively lower prices while still having a good selection of flight options and seats available.

However, there are six booking zones identified by CheapAir.com, each offering different fare averages and availability:

  1. First Dibs (212 to 315 days in advance): Expect to pay about $50 more than the lowest airfare, but you’ll likely have more choices for itinerary and seating.
  2. Peace of Mind (165 to 211 days in advance): Tickets cost about $20 more than the lowest airfare, but there are still plenty of good options for seats and flights.
  3. Prime Booking Window (46 to 164 days in advance): This is the ideal time to hunt for bargains, with airfares averaging within 5% of their lowest prices.
  4. Push Your Luck (14 to 45 days in advance): Fares may rise as more convenient options are sold out and the best seats are taken, but you might still find lower fares if you’re lucky.
  5. Playing with Fire (7 to 13 days in advance): Ticket prices average $135 less than booking at the last minute, but flight and seat choices become more limited.
  6. Hail Mary (0 to 6 days in advance): Best avoided unless it’s a last-minute emergency, as you’ll likely pay an average of $220 more than during the prime booking window.

While these are general guidelines, seasonal variations can affect the optimal booking time. For instance, travel during popular seasons like summer and holidays may require booking further in advance to secure lower prices. Conversely, booking during off-peak seasons or for less popular destinations may allow for more flexibility in booking closer to the departure date.

Ultimately, it’s essential to monitor prices, set fare alerts, and be flexible with your travel dates to find the best deals. Additionally, consider using travel rewards credit cards or frequent flyer programs to maximize savings on airfare.

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