Inflation and high gas prices are putting a strain on travellers’ budgets these days. You’re probably looking for the best flight deal when planning your next trip. You most likely can with a little planning.
When planning your vacation, using tools like Google Flights or Hopper can help you figure out the best time to buy that plane ticket.
“Google Flights is my go-to for finding and comparing flight prices,” Jenita Lawal, owner of Lawal Travel Services, told USA TODAY, referring to it as one of her vacation research tools. She particularly enjoys the price tracking and explore features for finding good deals to new destinations, such as Merida, Mexico.
The Google Flights team recently analysed data from August 2017 to August 2022 to determine the best time to book a flight and when the best airfare deals are available. (The team also debunked the myth that flights are cheaper on Tuesdays.)
However, keep in mind that your specific route may not always follow these price patterns, especially during peak travel times.
“To be honest, there doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason with flight prices lately,” Lawal said. “I’ve seen some great last-minute flight deals in the past, which are great if you’re flexible. I recommend booking eight to six months in advance for my clients.”
Consider a vacation package, she suggests, which includes everything in one price, often including charter flights.
Here’s what Google Flights data revealed about finding the cheapest flights, as well as some expert advice from travel advisors.
“Google Flights puts a lot of useful information right at your fingertips, so you can easily track prices, filter for your exact preferences, or browse destinations around the world that fit your budget,” said James Byers, Google Flights’ group product manager.
How far ahead of time should I book a flight?
According to Byers, the best prices for domestic flights are usually found three weeks to three months before your departure date. Before, the lowest prices averaged 44 days, or approximately 112 months.
International travel will take a little more time and planning. For trips from the United States to Europe, you’ll want to book early – 129 days, or nearly five months, ahead will get you the best deals. Avoid booking less than 50 days before your trip.
Flights to Mexico or the Caribbean provide a little more leeway in terms of planning: The best deals are 59 days, or nearly two months, in advance.
April Cheng, owner of TravelChic and a travel adviser, recommends even more time – six to eight months for international and four to five months for domestic – to ensure you have the most flight options.
“If you fly too early or too late, you won’t have a lot of options,” she said.
International low-cost airline exclusive European flights to this American airport will begin.
What is the cheapest day of the week to fly?
Flights departing on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday have historically been the cheapest days of the week to fly, particularly if flying internationally. According to Byers’ analysis, booking a flight for those days rather than the weekend could save you up to 12% on airfare.
Lawal agrees that Tuesday and Wednesday flights have the lowest fares, owing to the fact that most people travel Thursday through Sunday or Friday through Monday.
“I find that most U.S. travellers try to book their travel to include the weekend,” Lawal said.
Sunday is the most expensive day to fly.
Is flying nonstop more expensive?
When it comes to flying, it appears that time is money. According to Google Flights data, those willing to take a layover could save up to 20% on fares.
If you do decide to fly with a layover, Lawal suggests a few things you can do to make the most of your time, including some sightseeing.
She recommends visiting an airport lounge if your layover is longer than two hours.
She believes that if you have a layover of more than five hours, you can probably fit in an activity. “I purposefully booked a flight with a five-hour layover in Mexico City on my first trip to Mexico,” she explained. “There was just enough time to take a taxi to the historic district and grab a bite to eat before returning to the airport.”
Consider booking a hotel for an overnight or more than seven-hour layover (with an airport shuttle and breakfast, she recommends.) “I had a nine-hour layover at Heathrow in the United Kingdom, so I bought a subway ticket and enjoyed a few hours in London – even popped into Wolseley’s for authentic English tea,” she explained.
Is it true that Tuesdays are the cheapest days to fly?
Waiting until Tuesday to book your flight will not save you any money. Even putting it off for a few more days may cost you.
Flights booked on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays have been only about 1.9% cheaper than those booked on weekends over the last five years.
“So, if your trip is only a few weeks away, don’t wait until Tuesday – book your flight now in case the price goes up,” Google’s Byers advised.
When should you start booking holiday flights?
According to Google Flights data, the best airfare deals for domestic Thanksgiving travel occur 36 to 74 days before the travel date, with the price bottoming out 52 days, or just under two months, out.
Domestic trips during Christmas are typically priced low 22 days – or about three weeks – before departure, but low prices can be found up to 88 days – or nearly three months – before departure.
Byers examined five- to nine-day trips and 13- to 16-day trips with departure dates before the holiday and return dates after the holiday to generate this data.
Cheng expects holiday travel to be just as busy as it was this summer and advises her clients to book at least six months in advance for international travel and four months for domestic travel.
Other ways to use Google Flights to find cheap airfare
Google Flights will show you whether today’s prices are low, typical, or high, based on similar flights in the previous 12 months, so you can decide whether the current price is a good deal.
According to Byers, if you enable price tracking for your destination and travel dates, you’ll receive an email if prices change significantly, letting you know whether you should book right away or wait. Those with more flexible schedules can search for any dates in the next few months for a specific destination.
To see how fares change based on dates, use Google Flights’ calendar view, date grid, and price graph.