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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 offering 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.
Tuesday at around 3 p.m. ET has long been considered the best time to buy a plane ticket. This is because after airlines launch their ticket prices for the week on Monday night, they’ll spend Tuesday trying to beat out everyone else until mid-afternoon. You should also try to buy them 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, September is considered your best bet for affordable flights, but booking whenever you find a price that works before then doesn’t hurt either.
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 on incognito 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.
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 $39 for Cyber Monday (Nov. 29) through that Thursday (Dec. 2).
Related: If you’re a fan of flying Southwest, you need to know these tips for saving money with Southwest Airlines.
JetBlue Airlines has a Best Fare Guarantee that means you’ll always find the best prices directly on their website, as well as 2-day seasonal flash sales with as little as $31 flights — the most recent being $25 nonstop flights of $50 or more Aug. 2 – 3. In lieu of a Black Friday sale, JetBlue had a Cyber Monday sale last year for $100 on round-trip fares with code CYBER Nov. 29 – 30. Assuming the same deal for 2022, it should be happening Nov. 28 – 29.
Related: Don’t book a JetBlue flight without studying up on these ways to save with JetBlue Airlines.
The biggest savings at Alaska Airlines happen on Black Friday, where you can get one-way flights for as little as $29. In 2020 and 2021, the sale went from Black Friday through the Tuesday after, but it’s TBD if that’ll change with the pandemic calming down. You can expect this same deal to happen this Black Friday on Nov. 25 and potentially extend to Nov. 29. 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 45% off AAdvantage miles for their members to be used for future flight purchases, which ended Nov. 29 on Cyber Monday. Because American Airlines changes up their Black Friday sales every year, we’re not yet sure what to expect for 2022.
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 also get access to exclusive flash sales — including one during Black Friday in 2021 called the Season of the Adventure Deals, which offered special pricing for both domestic and international flights. If you don’t take advantage of SkyMiles, 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. 26) through Saturday (Nov. 27), Frontier offered up to 80% off and then switched to up to 91% off until Tuesday (Nov. 30) for Cyber Monday. These savings will likely be similar in 2022.
Related: We can show you how to work the system and get the best value when flying Frontier.
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 $20.22 per way. We expect they’ll continue the pattern again this year, with flights for 2023 as low as $20.23 per way Nov. 25 – 27.
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 loyalty program that gets you 5.5% cash back. These hacks for saving money with United Airlines will likely be your best bet because their Black Friday sale was pretty niche — $100 off Economy fares to Europe, India, Africa, and the Middle East Nov. 25 – 29. We’ll see if this year’s sale is any better!
When is the cheapest time to fly?
What are the cheapest days to fly?
One way to answer this is to ask you to think about the days you actually like to fly … and then not fly them. What I mean is that the weekend and its shoulder days are typically the busiest, making Tuesday or Wednesday much more affordable domestically, with savings up to $75. The cheapest day to fly for international trips is Thursday (expect around 6% savings).
What is the cheapest month to fly?
If you’re traveling within the United States, January is reliably the cheapest month to fly because it’s 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 cheapest time of day to fly, 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.