Here at CheapAir we often say that searching for airfares is like playing the stock market—airfares may go up one day and down the next with no obvious rhyme or reason.

We’ve told you before about how airfare pricing is a science of its own. Now we want to give you some practical advice and share with you the approach and strategies that CheapAir travel advisors use when planning their own getaways.

Research early and often

It’s generally a good idea to start to search for airfare a few months or more prior to your desired departure date. This way, you get a feel for the market and what the typical fares are. This is especially important if you don’t travel frequently. Getting a pulse on the market will arm you with the awareness you need to decide whether a fare is high, low or average. If fares drop, you’ll know it’s a good price and can act fast.

Plan around the cheapest days to fly

If you can, try to fly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for the best fares for domestic travel. For international, shoot for Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. These are the least popular days to travel and you’ll likely find better fares for those days. Conversely, Fridays and Sundays are usually the most popular and, therefore, more expensive, so you’ll frequently save money if you can be flexible enough to avoid those days.

Don’t book too early or too late in your search for airfare

Here are two popular myths about the best time to buy an airline ticket: (1) The further in advance you book, the better and (2), if you wait until the last minute there will be incredibly cheap, unsold seats. Both scenarios are untrue nearly every time. The truth is, there is no hard and fast rule, but there are some general trends to be aware of.  Most airlines open flights for booking about 11 months in advance and at that time, fares tend to be high. Then, once you get within about five months of a flight you will start to see sporadic seat sales where the prices drop for a short period of time. This pattern will continue for a few months.

On average, six weeks in advance is the least expensive time to buy a domestic flight – but that varies a lot depending on where you’re going and when you’re traveling. With popular cities on popular travel days, you are usually best to book even earlier. That’s especially true for holiday travel.  So check often and when you do see a good deal or a big fare drop, don’t wait too long to pull the trigger. The best deals don’t normally stay around for too long. Finally, whatever you do, always try to book at least 21 days in advance. Within 21 days of departure, fares usually start to climb quite a bit.

Try to be flexible

The more flexible you are about everything, the better—days you can travel, which airline, which airports, etc. Figure out all the combinations of dates and airports you’d be willing to do, and check each one individually to make sure you are seeing the most options. Being flexible will provide you with the most choices and therefore you’ll have the better deals to choose from. This includes being willing to fly one airline going and another coming back, since sometimes the airline with the least expensive fare or best schedule in one direction does not have a great option for the other.

We’re here to help 

We hope these trends and best practices help you to navigate the complexities of the search for airfare. Remember, CheapAir Travel Advisors are always here to help. All of CheapAir’s Travel Advisors are U.S.-based and are available via email ([email protected]). So if you have any questions, let us know.

Safe travels!

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84 Comments

  1. I have messed up some, I didn’t even know there’s a CheapOair.
    Is these two separate Companies?
    I uninvertertanly booked with CheapOair instead of Cheapair.

    • Hi Rupert, yes, we are very different travel companies with similar names so often we get confused with each other. If you want us to check on anything please email [email protected] and one of our US-based travel advisors will be happy to see if you booked with us. Please include the full names of the passengers,the email address used at booking, and a booking number if you have it. We hope to be able to assist you but can only look at bookings made in our system. Thank you

  2. Will let you know when I go to Cleveland & Philippines 🇵🇭& DOMiNiCAN 🇩🇴 Republic

  3. We are traveling to Italy from New Orleans so there is no direct flight. We would like to upgrade the portion of the flight that is the overnight ‘leg’ from the states to Rome. I don’t see that option online. How do we upgrade to ‘premium economy’ to get better leg room if we book on one of the low fare sights? Or, is that not a good idea?
    Thanks,

    • Hi there. Are you trying to use frequent flyer miles to upgrade? If not, the best way for you to get that portion as a premium would be to purchase it separately from the U.S. portion of the ticket. That can be a bit annoying in terms of convenience because that would require you to pick up your bags in the states after the first leg of your trip and then recheck for the upgraded ticket.

  4. Thanks for the article. My wife and I (seniors) will be flying round trip from Jacksonville, FL to Anchorage, AK departing on August 31st, 2018 and returning September 10th, 2018. We will be participating in a guided tour of Alaska, so dates are pretty firm. When would be the best time to search for tickets, and can you send alerts on these fares?

    • Hi Ron, you can sign up for alerts on our faretracker page: https://www.cheapair.com/faretracker. It’s definitely not too early to be starting a search now. Especially since you’ve got set dates (and probably preferred flight times based on your plans), you should start a search now. The best time to book ON AVERAGE for domestic flights this year is about 70 days out from your travel plans.

  5. Thanks for the advice. When is d best time to search for tickets from Kingston Jamaica to Fort Lauderdale Florida for early July _ late August

    • Hi Sue. It’s a little hard to say. We don’t have inbound airfare intelligence for flights to the United States. Our company is based in California and our customer base is North American, so we primarily deal with outbound travel. I can say that the summer months tend to be a busy (translation: expensive) time for travel since a lot of people do tend to take their holidays in the summer months. For that reason, I would advise buying earlier rather than later.

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