There are ridiculous myths associated with buying airline tickets, like deleting cookies from your computer, using a VPN to pretend you’re in a different country, or shopping while your browser is in incognito mode. Should you use a Ouija board, call a psychic, or wait until 5 a.m. on Tuesday to snag the best flight deals?
According to CheapAir.com’s 10th Annual Airfare Study, there is indeed a best day to buy airline tickets. We drilled down through the data and pulled out everything you need to know to snag the best deal on your next trip.
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Why do airline ticket prices change so much?
There are a few reasons airline ticket prices look like they’re playing on a seesaw. Airfare is subject to dynamic pricing — a complex algorithm that considers airline competition, the number of people traveling, popular destinations, itineraries, routes, and special events.
Airlines are in the business of making money. If they lose money on a route, they cut it. If they continuously offer cheap flights, they can lose money even though every seat is filled.
Airfare prices go down when fewer people travel, so airlines will set aside a number of flights and seats during a sale, spurring travelers to book with them instead of their competition. Once the quota is filled, airlines raise the price again.
It’s always a good idea to follow airlines on social media in case they run a flash sale on airfare, which means they drop the ticket price for a limited time.
The best day to buy plane tickets
Forget whatever you may have heard about the best day of the week or the best month to buy tickets. CheapAir.com’s study found the best day to book a flight is 42 days before your travel date. Their data shows that in 2024, on average, the best deals are to be made further away from the departure date than in previous years, giving you a little more than a month to make your other travel arrangements.
Keeping dynamic pricing in mind, the study noted that fares generally change around 49 times, and prices can go up or down by $98 on average.
Because of these wild fluctuations, experienced travelers might opt to purchase refundable airfare. If a sale is announced closer to vacation, a refundable ticket can be canceled, and those funds could be used to book the same flight at the lower rate.
How to find the best airfare deals
Thinking about a week in the sun? There are a few tried and true ways to get a good deal on airfare if you’re diligent.
- Google Flights can help you plot your next trip. The website aggregates fares for domestic and international flights. Use the explore button to find inexpensive flights across the world. You can even set up alerts that notify you of price changes for your chosen flight.
- Download airline apps and enable notifications. Some airlines will occasionally run “app-only” airfare deals.
- Follow airlines on social media. When airlines run a flash sale, they usually announce it on their social channels.
- Sign up for airline newsletters. They will keep you updated on routes and airfare prices and often announce sales.
Getting the best airfare is like gambling, and you need a game plan to come out ahead instead of overpaying for a trip. For the best shot at a great ticket price, be sure to book a refundable flight 42 days before your travel date and then keep track of airfare prices.
If the prices dip, cancel your ticket, purchase the lower-priced flight, and end up with a little extra cash in your pocket for vacation. You could also make a habit of using one of the top travel credit cards for your purchases so you earn rewards toward future vacations.
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