Buying tickets in any capacity — whether it’s for a concert, museum exhibit or even just the movies — can be stressful. But when it comes to buying a plane ticket in 2023, the pressure to find a flight at an affordable price can feel downright overwhelming.
Inflation, the rising cost of jet fuel and increased demand after years of delayed travel plans all mean airfare prices have been on the rise, according to Hopper’s Consumer Travel Index. Nabbing a good deal is still possible, though — if you plan ahead, that is. Flights open up for booking about a year in advance, and the cost of a ticket can fluctuate regularly between that date and when the plane takes off. To find out when you should be booking a flight for the best price, we spoke to travel experts at several popular booking sites.
But before we get into the details of the best time to book plane tickets to save money, our first recommendation is to plug your email address and trip details into a price-tracking site like Google Flights or Kayak, which monitor and compare flight prices across hundreds of airlines and travel sites. “You’ll get an email if prices change substantially, which also takes the work out of monitoring airline websites to see the latest price for your dream vacation,” explains Richard Holden, VP of Travel Products at Google.
All done with that? Read on to get expert answers to all your questions on how far in advance of your trip to book a flight.
What’s the cheapest day to fly?
If your travel plans are flexible, you may be wondering if taking off on a certain day of the week can save you money. “On average, flights that depart on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday have been 12% cheaper than weekend departures,” says Holden — and those savings can jump as high as 20% if you exclude international travel.
However, Holden points out that these figures are simply averages. While it may, generally speaking, be cheaper to travel during the middle of the week than on a Sunday, the actual price of your ticket comes down to lots of different variables, not just the day your plane departs. “When looking to lock down the best price, there are many factors to consider, so there isn’t a clear way to advise on the absolute best day to fly,” says Holden.
What’s the cheapest day to book a flight?
You may have heard that flight prices go down on Tuesdays, and there is some truth to that. In Google’s most recent analysis of data from the past five years, it found that shopping for tickets on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays was just 1.9% cheaper than shopping for flights on Saturday and Sunday.
So essentially, there really is no “cheapest” day of the week to book flights; instead, the best time to book a flight really depends on where you are traveling to and at what time of year.
When to book domestic flights
Whether you’re planning a girls’ getaway to Vegas or a vacation to an all-inclusive family resort in Florida, waiting one to two months out to book domestic flights could help you avoid higher ticket costs. Google’s data analysis found that prices for domestic trips were, on average, at their lowest 44 days before departure.
That said, it also found that prices were sometimes just as low 21 or 60 days before takeoff. The average is the best number to refer to, but if you miss the exact 44-day mark, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doomed to paying significantly more for your ticket — especially if you’re signed up for price drop notifications. You’ll just want to avoid booking at the last minute, since that is when prices will definitely spike.
When to book international flights
For popular international destinations, like the Caribbean or Europe, you’ll likely want to buy your tickets much further in advance — as many as six to eight months out, in some cases. According to data in Kayak’s recently published guide to buying “shoulder season” tickets, airfare to popular European destinations is up 29% compared to 2022 — which just goes to show that if you want to find the best price on international flights, it’s crucial to set up flight alerts as early as possible and avoid booking at the last minute.
According to Google Flights and Kayak statistics, these are the best time to book a flight abroad, depending on your destination:
- Europe: 129 days on average, or anywhere between 50 and 170 days out
- Mexico and the Caribbean: 59 days on average, or anywhere between 37 and 87 days out
- Asia: 8 months out
- Africa: 5 months out
- Central America: 2 weeks out
- South America: 3 weeks out
Always make sure to check the holiday and special events schedule of your international destination, too, as that can affect ticket prices.
When to book holiday flights
As you may know all too well, it can be difficult to find cheap tickets during busy holiday travel weeks when demand is high. On average, Google Flights recommends booking your flight 52 days out for domestic travel in November during Thanksgiving, as this is when airfare, on average, is at its cheapest. However, prices are historically lowest anywhere between 36 and 74 days before departure.
For domestic trips in December around Christmas, Google reports that prices, on average, are lowest 22 days before departure. For planners, that may feel too close for comfort — so take note that Google has also found low prices on domestic flights in late December as far out as 88 days before take off.
When to book spring and summer break flights
Google Flights defines spring break travel as any domestic flights departing March through April, and notes that prices for these flights are lowest, on average, 38 days before departure. But affordable flights could also be bought anywhere between 23 and 59 days before takeoff in these months.
Meanwhile, outside of busy holiday weekends like the Fourth of July, you may be able to be a bit more spontaneous when planning your summer vacation. For domestic trips departing between July and August, prices were, on average, lowest 21 days before departure, and you could find affordable tickets 14 to 44 days before departure as well.
The Bottom Line: In the end, your best bet is to turn those travel alerts on as soon as possible and book months in advance — especially if you have your heart set on a specific flight. “No matter where you’re flying, my best advice is to be flexible and book early so you don’t miss out on the flights you’re interested in,” says Holden.
Elizabeth Berry (she/her) is the Updates Editor at the Good Housekeeping Institute where she optimizes lifestyle content across verticals. Prior to this role, she was an Editorial Assistant for Woman’s Day where she covered everything from gift guides to recipes. She also has experience fact checking commerce articles and holds a B.A. in English and Italian Studies from Connecticut College.