UPDATE: This international Airfare Study has the most current information on the best time to buy  cheap flights. It’s hardly a secret that airfares fluctuate a lot. Knowing the best time to purchase a flight has turned into something like Russian roulette for travelers – if you don’t “win” a low fare, you can lose big and be left with a sense that there has to be a better way. That’s where we come in.

international when to buy 2018

Every year, CheapAir.com analyzes hundreds of millions of domestic and international airfares – and you can read about the results of our domestic When to Buy Flights study, where we show you the best time to buy a domestic flight. But we also track international tickets, and this year we took a deeper dive into the international data to provide our customers with the most comprehensive insights we’ve ever shared.

In our study, we reviewed a total of 917,000,000 airfares, including fares covering more than 1,000,000 international trips over the last year. These airfares covered more than 3,000 international markets. For each trip, we studied all the possible days you could buy that airline ticket – to uncover when international flights have the lowest fares.

We identified the best day to buy a ticket in the different regions around the world, and we identified the “prime booking window” for each region as well. The prime booking window is the range of days in which you are likely to see the lowest fares – the window where it’s generally not too early to get a good deal, but also not too late. If price is most important, you should plan to purchase your flights within this range. Of course, the prime booking window is a generalization, and you should be aware of events like large festivals, international sports events, and major holidays. At a very busy time for the destination – Oktoberfest in Munich, the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland, and Holi in India are just three examples that come to mind – you’ll want to buy in the early part of the prime booking window, or in some cases even earlier. Otherwise, use the prime booking window as a good estimate of when it will make the best sense to buy.

We also looked at whether traveling in certain seasons will impact when you should buy your flights, and which travel months had the highest and lowest airline ticket prices for each region. Finally, we analyzed the days of the week to determine whether there was a price advantage to buying, or flying, on any particular day.

Here is a breakdown of the average number of days before departure that yields the lowest airline ticket price for U.S. travelers heading to international regions:

2018 International When to Buy

We’ll now review each region in more detail, and address how to approach buying a ticket to each destination, using a range of criteria as explained above:

The Canadian market is very similar to the U.S. market – it’s best to buy your airline ticket to Canada 66 days in advance, on average. Flights to Canada are about 3% cheaper than they were last year on average, which is a modest savings but hey—we’ll take a modest savings over a modest increase any day! No big surprises that Canada’s warm summers see the most expensive airline tickets, with July being the most expensive month to visit, but still – the difference between July and October (the least expensive month) is relatively modest—about $64.

Prime Booking Window: 3 weeks to about 5 months before departure
Best time to buy: About 66 days from your travel date
The average airfare: $427
Cheapest month to travel: October
Most expensive month to travel: July
Least expensive days of week to fly: Tuesday and Wednesday

Mexico/Central America
Mexico and Central America were quite similar to domestic U.S. flights (this has not always been the case in the past) – you can generally wait about 70 days out for the best fares to Mexico or Central American destinations. The airfares to our neighbors to the south are also trending slightly cheaper overall versus last year, translating to an average 3% savings on each ticket. December is the most expensive month, so get your Christmas beach vacation booked stat!

Prime Booking Window: 2 weeks to almost 6 months before departure
Best time to buy: About 70 days from your travel date
The average airfare: $489
Cheapest month to travel: September
Most expensive month to travel: December
Least expensive days of week to fly: Tuesday and Wednesday

On average, the cheapest flights to the Caribbean are found when you buy that tropical airline ticket a whopping 207 days in advance – nearly 7 months before you go. The prime booking window is enormous as well – which frankly, is good news to travelers. You don’t really have to scrutinize the calendar as closely when the fluctuations in price remain fairly small over the course of most of the time before your trip. Having said that, the fares do still jump up in that last month before you plan to go. And you should also pay close attention to booking holiday flights early if you’re spending Christmas or Hanukkah in Jamaica. December is the priciest month to travel.

Prime Booking Window: 1 month to almost 11 months before departure
Best time to buy: About 207 days from your travel date
The average airfare: $545
Cheapest month to travel: January
Most expensive month to travel: December
Least expensive days of week to fly: Tuesday and Wednesday

South America
Airfares to South America will set you back the fewest dollars on average at 110 days out—closing in on three months before you go. Tickets are a bit more expensive, and are trending more expensive than last year. Travelers can expect to spend an average of 8% more – about $65 more than they would have paid in 2017. One reason for this might be that destinations like Colombia and Argentina are pretty hot right now – the ole’ supply and demand driving up prices. It’s almost $250 cheaper to visit South America in February (the cheapest month to go) than in December. That’s a savings of nearly $1,000 for a family of four!

Prime Booking Window: 5 weeks to almost 11 months before departure
Best time to buy: About 110 days from your travel date
The average airfare: $845
Cheapest month to travel: February
Most expensive month to travel: December
Least expensive days of week to fly: Tuesday and Wednesday

South Pacific
A vacation to Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti or other South Pacific spots in theory should be planned pretty far in advance, as the cheapest time to buy clocks in at 197 days before takeoff. But here again, the prime booking window is very wide, which means that the airfares are not very volatile for a good chunk of time. Because flights are already so expensive, if you have a trip in December (summer down under), you can expect to pay more than $550 more on average than if you travel in the cheapest month of May. That’s a gargantuan argument for visiting in late spring, wouldn’t you say? Airfares to South Pacific destinations are also a modest 3% cheaper this year – so visitors do have that going for them!

Prime Booking Window: 54 days to just over 8 months
Best time to buy: About 197 days from your travel date
The average airfare: $1,708
Cheapest month to travel: May
Most expensive month to travel: December
Least expensive days of week to fly: Tuesday and Wednesday

Airline tickets to Asia are cheapest right around 4 months (120 days) in advance. The prime booking window is also quite wide for Asia, so you can relax a bit and not worry that prices are going to have a huge spike while you’re watching and waiting. November is the cheapest month to travel with the popular North American travel month of June being the most expensive. Travel in the least expensive month can save you $420 on average. Insider Tip: Asia is a huge region, so we urge our readers to do some research on their own – using our Best Time to Buy Flights Widget. You’ll want to fine-tune these results for your particular itinerary.

Prime Booking Window: A little over a month to 7 months
Best time to buy: About 120 days from your travel date
The average airfare: $1,113
Cheapest month to travel: November
Most expensive month to travel: June
Least expensive days of week to fly: Tuesday and Wednesday

The cheapest airline tickets to Europe are, on average, found 160 days before departure, and prices have dropped close to 10% since last year (great news for North American travelers, as Europe is always a pricey but coveted vacay – every little bit helps)! One way that the data was a little different for flights to Europe – the best days to travel include Monday—more options! It’ll probably come as no surprise that July is the most expensive time to go across the pond; if you can handle the weather March is the best value hands down, with an average savings of $371 dollars per ticket. We know that people usually try to tackle Europe in the summer, so for more guidance on the best days to fly to Europe this summer (with a handy color-coded calendar for reference), see our Europe Summer Flights page.

Prime Booking Window: About 1.5 months to a little more than 8 months
Best time to buy: 160 days from your travel date
The average airfare: $1,151
Cheapest month to travel: March
Most expensive month to travel: July
Least expensive days of week to fly: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday

Africa/Middle East
If you’re traveling to a country in Africa or the Middle East, you’ve got some wiggle room in the “when to buy” department. The prime booking widow is pretty wide, so there aren’t huge variations in price for much of the time leading up to a flight. The absolute best best airfares to Africa and the Middle East are found 199 days in advance, close to 7 months, on average.

Prime Booking Window: 96 to 287 days before departure
Best time to buy: About 199 days from your travel date
The average airfare: $1,238
Cheapest month to travel: February
Most expensive month to travel: July
Least expensive days of week to fly: Tuesday and Wednesday

There you have it. The insider’s scoop on 2018 international travel. In case you want to do further research, here are a few more airfare tools for you to check out:

When to Buy Domestic Flights Study

Guide to Summer Flights

Please feel free to comment with your individual questions below – we always take the time to address each question and/or comment from our readers and we know that planning an international trip can be a complex undertaking. We love helping people plan trips. We’re also pleased to offer monthly payments for flights, which can sometimes help make budgeting less stressful for international trips. Happy travels!


  1. I’m looking for a flight (non-stop preferred) from ATL to AMS, late May (26) through early June. I saw what I thought was a decent rate (around $900 basic/$1,100 main) but based on your data, I should be waiting until closer to the holidays. I’m starting to feel quite a bit of anxiety over trying not to book too soon. How low can I realistically expect prices to go? Too soon to book? Perhaps I should stop looking… 🙂

    • Hi Mel, Based on your preference for a nonstop in early summer, it is probably not too early to buy. Nonstop flights are not ever going to be as low as connecting flights (that’s where the real deals are), because most people will pay a slight premium for nonstops.

      • Hi CheapAir folks! This info is super helpful – thank you! I’ve definitely “lost” on flights before, not realizing they would go back down after climbing for a while. I’m planning a trip from Nashville BNA to Dublin DUB for March 2020 and saw round trip tickets a few weeks ago for $520 I think, but within a day or two they disappeared and have been in the $600s ever since. Google Flights says $630 is 40 bucks cheaper than normal and that I should buy now, but that’s what I did with a Paris flight last year but the tickets gradually dropped another couple hundred dollars that I could have saved. I was hoping international data would look more like the domestic flights graph with the cheapest time to buy being 80-90 days out from travel but it sounds like I should buy now for an Ireland trip in mid March, is that correct? Thanks!

        • Honestly Drew, we wish we could tell you with 100% certainty to buy later or now. What we do know, is that when you see “incremental” bumps in fare, that’s usually a sign that the fares are selling out at the lowest categories. Sometimes people balk after a few classes of service sell out (which then causes the airlines to drop fares). But that happens less and less with sophisticated airline algorithms. Our safe advice would be to buy soon. Nashville to Dublin for $630 is great (as you said, $40 lower than normal). One other piece of information pushing me in the direction of telling you to buy now, is that Paris is a little like New York. There is so much traffic going in and out (many flights to and from the states), that the fares are a little more volatile (and also usually quite a big bargain) compared to most other European destinations. A lot of people also use Paris as a hub and buy flights to other parts of the continent from there which also keeps prices low. Dublin is a little more off the beaten path, is generally more expensive than Paris and has limited flight availability. You could wait, but we wouldn’t advise it.

          • Really appreciate the advice. That’s the way I’m leaning the last couple days too. The trick will be to buy the tickets and turn off my fare tracking notifications so I don’t even get notified if they do go back down a bunch. =P Haha. Thanks, guys!

  2. Hello from New England! I’m traveling for a wedding in Peru in January 2020. When would be the best time to buy airfare (NYC to LIM)? I’m also trying to coordinate a domestic trip to Disney (not sure if CA or FL would be the least expensive from NY). Thank you so much!

    • Hi Cat, Flights to Orlando from New York should be more inexpensive than flights to LAX (or SNA). One caveat on the Disney trip, if you’re flying in the summer or in March (spring break time), you might just need to check both routes. Summer and spring break can be so popular in both destinations that I’m not sure you save much by traveling to Florida.

      It’s certainly not too early to be shopping for Peru, though you are planning to be there during the “wet” season when less tourists tend to go. Our best advice is to start your search soon, and buy when you find a good rate. I see fares for under $500 in the latter part of January. The first two weeks of January have flights in the $500-700 range.

  3. Many thanks for this article. In your entry about Mexico and the Caribbean, you say, “December is the most expensive month, so get your Christmas beach vacation booked stat!” What do you mean by “stat?”

    • sorry! “Stat!” is used in medicine primarily during emergencies, but has become more popular in popular culture because of medical dramas on television. It’s from the latin “statim” which means “immediately!”

  4. We’re planning a trip to Ireland in June 2020. We plan to fly DFW into Dublin and return out of Shannon. Flights are just over $1000 right now. When would you say is the best time to buy? Thanks

    • Hi Susan, It’s probably a bit early to buy for Dublin returning from Shannon but you are traveling in June which can be quite expensive compared to other times of the year. Are your dates flexible or do you have specific dates you’re flying in June? If you are keeping things flexible, you probably have quite a bot of wiggle room to wait and shop. If you need specific dates, we always recommend buying early.

  5. Traveling from JFK or EWR to MAD next April. Is approximately 160 days out the best time to buy or does Spain vary compared to Europe’s average? Thanks!

  6. Thank you for this detailed information! This is some of the highest quality content I’ve ever come across….

    • Hi Bob, There is less volatility in business class fares, so you’re less tied tied to a timeline if you decide to splash out a bit more. Economy Plus fares almost always sell out so I would plan to start your search for those fares early. You can start shopping as early as 11 months prior to your departure dates (give or take, that’s about when airlines publish). With the new a la carte pricing, you can bet that some people will opt into this fare class – especially when you’re looking at transatlantic flights. You do tend to pay a bit of a premium when buying early (around 20% more than the lowest published price during the lifespan of a fare), but you’ll still very likely pay less than a business class fare. Good luck to you. Let us know if you’d like more personalized advice – we’d just need dates and a departure airport to come up with some details for you.

      • planning to fly to either germany or portugal in mid april. for first time ever, buying business class tics for mrs & me due to long trip from california. you mentioned less volatility with business class fares, does this mean prices stay the same, no matter when i buy them? just wanted to know if fare advice is just as good for business class as it is for regular tics, thanks.

        • Hi Tino, yes. In general, you can expect business class fares to stay the same. We’d still recommend buying as soon as you can because there are a limited number of business class seats on a flight, and there will be other people who have the same idea as you! Good luck to you!

  7. Hi. We are traveling to Mexico the second week in June. We go every year but I usually have the tickets booked by March at the latest. This year I was consumed with caring for my father who has now passed. Tickets obviously went off my radar. They are quite expensive as compared to what we normally pay. Should I take the next best deal I see or wait until 2 weeks out? Thanks so much!

    • Hi Jennifer, I would not wait until two weeks out. We’re already getting pretty close to June and the best fares are going to continue to sell down. There’s always a possibility that an airline or two will add an additional flight if the first flights sell out, but it’s not a great risk to take. You’re probably better off just taking a bit of a hit this year and buying soon.

  8. I have often found great deals for flying to Europe on either black Friday or boxing day sales, I’m curious if these are indeed the lowest prices, or if I could get the same deals booking in your suggested ideal booking windows…

    • We’re not discounting sales – these can sometimes give you very good prices. But generally speaking, those fares don’t tend to be for popular dates (it can be hard to FIND that sale fare on occasion).

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