UPDATE: This Airfare Study has the most current information on the best time to buy international flights. Our latest When to Buy Flights study analyzed over 921 million domestic airfares, but a lot of travelers planning international trips are also looking for advice on when to buy an international airline ticket.
To help you find cheap international flights, here’s what we did:
We reviewed 351,568,000 airfares for 1,098,650 international trips over the last year. These airfares covered 3,010 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.
While the “Prime Booking Window” for buying domestic flights is about 3 weeks to 3.5 months in advance, international flights are generally cheaper when you buy a little earlier. How early you should buy varies by the region you are traveling to, and we will detail each region for you below.
International flights are different than domestic flights
International flights go on sale about 11 months in advance, so you could choose to buy your flight anywhere from 11 months in advance up until the day of your flight. What we see in the trends is that buying very early can be almost as costly as buying a last minute airline ticket. The sweet spot for the lowest airfares is somewhere in the middle, and as noted earlier it varies based on international region. Here we break down the average best day to buy your international airline ticket:
Specific regions and when to buy
The Canadian market is very similar to the U.S. market – it’s best to buy your airline ticket to Canada 59 days in advance, on average.
Mexico is also similar to domestic U.S. flights – you can generally wait about 61 days out for the best fares to Mexico.
On average, airfares to Central America are also cheapest at 61 days in advance.
The cheapest flights to the Caribbean are, on average, found when you buy that tropical airline ticket 76 days in advance.
Airfares to South America will set you back the fewest dollars on average at 81 days out.
A vacation to the South Pacific is best planned about 3+ months in advance, since the cheapest airline tickets, on average, were available 89 days before takeoff.
Airline tickets to Asia are cheapest right around 3 months (90 days) in advance for the best fares. It’s probably worth noting here that this is a new development. In some past years, both Asia and the South Pacific destinations were better priced 7-9 months out. This gives you more flexibility in planning a trip to Asia.
The cheapest airline tickets to Europe are, on average, found 99 days before departure.
If you’re traveling to a country in Africa, you want to plan a little further in advance, as the best airfares to Africa were found 119 days in advance, right around 4 months, on average.
Flights to the Middle East, similar to the results for Africa, are on average cheapest at 119 days in advance, or right around 4 months before departure.
The Summer Exception
Summer brings high demand and high prices for many international flights. If you’re heading to Europe, in particular, you might want to look at buying a little earlier than the average. For more guidance on the best days to fly to Europe this summer, see our Europe Summer Flights page. Conversely, if you’re traveling in the off-season there isn’t the same degree of urgency and you are more likely to be okay waiting longer.
There you have it. In case you want to do further research, here are a few more airfare tools for you to check out:
Happy travels! Please let us know how we can help you in the comments section below.