when to buy plane tickets

When to buy plane tickets is one of the most asked travel questions. We break it down into simple terms.

How far in advance should I book a plane?

When you’re thinking about when to buy plane tickets, the airlines know you get anxious over getting on a plane, and that you just want to be done with planning & buying tickets. They also know how desperate people are when booking a plane ticket at the last minute. In both cases, they keep airfare rates at a premium because they know people will pay. Instead, book a flight when the airline is getting anxious. The below time frames are close enough to the plane’s departure date for airlines to begin lowering fares, yet far enough away that last minute flyers haven’t entered the picture.

For domestic flights, book 90 days in advance or use Kayak’s price advice (screenshot above).

For international flights, book 5-6 months in advance or use Kayak’s price advice (above).

If you’re flying during a holiday, or when there’s a sporting event, conference, or something similar at your destination, when you should buy depends on the popularity of the event & destination. A small conference probably won’t bump prices, but the Superbowl and Carnaval will.

What day of the week should I buy a plane ticket?

This isn’t as important for when to buy plane tickets as how far in advance you buy them and when you leave & come back. If you really want to stay on top of prices, use Kayak’s price alert to get notified when a price drops.

What day of the week should I leave & come back?

The vast majority of people who fly do so for business. Since business meetings typically happen Monday – Friday, business people fly out Sunday, Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to a lesser extent. So Tuesday and Wednesday are the best days to fly.

However, this is radically influenced by events happening at your destination. Conferences, sporting events, holidays, etc… pump up rates because people start buying tickets earlier. Demand increases, supply decreases, so price increases.

What time of day should I fly?

Well, when would you want to fly? Between late morning & early evening? Yeah, so does everyone one else, which is why those are the first tickets to be bought. Because this always happens, airlines know they can charge more for those times.  So when you’re figuring out when to buy plane tickets, the cheapest times to fly will be the first 2 flights of the day and the last flight at night.  I love sleep, but waking up at 3 AM for a 6 AM flight to save 50% on the ticket (or more), will get me out of bed.

BONUS: the first 2 flights of the day are also the most likely to leave on time since no other flights happened before them to slow them down.

BONUS X2: getting to your destination late morning means more time for your trip.

Bottom line – Your cheapest fares are probably going to be early in the morning and late at night, in the middle of the week.