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Finding the best time to book flights is both an art and a science. There are a lot of best practices that can help maximize your time and money, but sometimes it comes down to dumb luck. While we can’t help you with the second part, we do know a lot about the first part. For all the deets on the best time to buy plane tickets, like when prices change and the cheapest days to fly, look no further. For example, did you know that airlines actually have sales? They can save you hundreds, like the Southwest Airlines fall sale that offers flights for as little as $59.
And there’s more where that came from. This primer on the best time to buy plane tickets should be bookmarked on your computer and referenced every time you plan a vacation (especially when you’re flying with kids, who make everything in life more expensive). After all, why pay more when you can pay way, way less for flights?
When is the best time to buy plane tickets?
The short answer? It depends. While general guidelines will help you save money, the best time to book flights depends on the airline. Here’s everything you need to know.
Tuesdays have long been considered the best time to buy a plane ticket. However, that’s no longer the case. We’ve seen some studies claim that Sundays are 5% cheaper, while others say that Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are lower by about 2%. Truth is, airlines don’t stick to one day a week for adjusting ticket prices.
Buy your ticket(s) at least three weeks in advance for domestic flights and at least 45 days in advance for international flights. When it comes to the holidays, be ready to buy in the traditionally discounted September.
Use flight price trackers and an incognito window to find the lowest airline ticket prices.
Saving is a likelihood but not a guarantee, which is why it can pay off to use a flight price tracker like Hopper or Google Flights that’ll do all the legwork for you. If you’re going to do a deep dive to find the best price, make sure to search through an incognito window so websites can’t track you and raise the prices.
Now, onto some airline-specific tips.
Related: We found all the top sites to check for last-minute cruise deals, too.
The biggest savings at Alaska Airlines happen on Black Friday, where you can get one-way flights for as little as $29. In 2022, they offered 30% off flights to Hawaii when you booked by 11:59 p.m. PT on Nov. 25, 2022, and used the promo code ALOHA30. You can also check the site every Monday for new cheap flight deals.
Like with many other airlines, American Airlines’ Low Fare Calendar on their website should always be consulted before booking a flight. While they haven’t done any weekly fare sales since 2016, they still participate in Black Friday. Last year, they listed out all their fares under $100 (no formal expiration date) and offered 50% off AAdvantage miles for their members to be used for future flight purchases, which ran from Nov. 24 to Nov. 28 on Cyber Monday. Because American Airlines changes up their Black Friday sales every year, we’re not yet sure what to expect for 2023.
As we explain in our guide to saving money with Delta Airlines, the SkyMiles program gives you 6.5% back on your ticket purchases. SkyMiles members can save with Delta Cyber Monday deals like we saw in 2022. On Nov. 28, 2022, if you booked a flight your miles were worth 40% more. This one-day only deal meant if you had 50,000 miles, typically worth $500, they were worth $700. Plus, if you purchased Delta gift cards (starting at $250) through their site you earned 4x SkyMiles on Cyber Monday. Delta’s Current Flight Deals page will show you the cheapest round-trip flights from your home airport.
For those with flexible schedules, Frontier Airlines’ online deals section can be a game changer. If you use Frontier often enough, you’ll want to join their Discount Den program, which is $59.99 a year, plus a one-time $40 enrollment fee. Don’t worry — you’ll definitely make it back through benefits like guaranteed lowest fares, exclusive promotions, and kids flying free. Last year on Black Friday (Nov. 25) through Sunday (Nov. 27), Frontier offered up Discount Den one-way fares for $19. This deal was for travel by May 24, 2023. You’ll likely find similar Black Friday 2023 travel deals.
Related: We can show you how to work the system and get the best value when flying Frontier.
JetBlue Airlines has a Best Fare Guarantee which means you’ll always find the best prices directly on their website, as well as 2-day seasonal flash sales with as little as $39 flights — the most recent being Aug. 22 – 24, 2023. In 2022, JetBlue had a Cyber Monday sale that offered $50 off $100+ round-trip fares with code CYBER22. You had to book by Nov. 29. Assuming the same deal for 2023, it should be happening Nov. 27 – 28.
Related: Don’t book a JetBlue flight without studying up on these ways to save with JetBlue Airlines.
Southwest Airlines offers a lot of opportunities to save more, like their weekly Click ‘N Save email that goes out every Tuesday (select routes are as low as $39 one-way) and the Low Fare Calendar on their website. Major seasonal sales have happened Jan. 4 – 6, Feb. 1 – 14, June 7 – 9, and Aug. 16 – 26 so far this year, and are expected to continue. During Black Friday, they’ve been known to offer up to $250 off one-way tickets, but last year, they instead had one-way flights starting at $49 for Cyber Monday (Nov. 28) and 30% off eligible flights when you booked by Dec. 1 and used the promo code CYBER30. The offer was for travel from Jan. 10 to March 8, 2023.
Related: If you’re a fan of flying Southwest, you need to know these tips for saving money with Southwest Airlines.
We already know you can save a lot of money by flying Spirit Airlines, especially when you combine deals with their Free Spirit rewards program and the $69.95-a-year Spirit Saver$ Club that gives you their lowest fares plus discounted bags, seats, and more. Last year, their big sale happened Black Friday through Sunday, when flights for the following year were as low as $32 per way and 50% off vacation packages booked directly through their site. If you booked a half-off vacation you were automatically entered into their giveaway for a three-night stay in Cancun Mexico, including roundtrip airfare for two and car rental.
From special flight offers to their Weekly Deals, United Airlines makes it easy to get flights on the cheap. They also have a calendar bar you can use when searching for flights on their site to find out the cheapest day to fly during your desired week, as well as their free MileagePlus program that earns you miles worth about 1.2 cents each.
These hacks for saving money with United Airlines will likely be your best bet because their Black Friday sales are pretty niche. For example, last year they offered round-trip flights across the Atlantic or Pacific for 30,000 miles, plus United Chase cardholders and Premiere members 50% off to destinations in Europe, Australia, and Africa.
When is the cheapest time to fly?
What is the cheapest month to fly?
If you’re traveling within the United States, January and February are reliably the cheapest months to fly because they are right after the holidays. Assuming you don’t want to fly internationally in cold weather, the cheapest warm-weather month to travel is August, with prices close to 10% lower than July.
What is the cheapest time of day to fly?
There isn’t necessarily a best time of day to book flights — as in, the cheapest time of day to travel — but you should always aim to take the earliest flights possible. They tend to be less crowded and make it easier to rebook later in the day if your flight is canceled or delayed.
Related: Here’s what each airline owes you as compensation for delayed flights.