As the holiday season approaches, many individuals are focused on finding affordable travel options. In the United States, searches for “cheapest airline tickets” increased by over 240% between April and August of this year. During this period, the most frequently asked questions about air travel were “When is the best time to book a flight?” and “How can I find cheap flights?”
To address these inquiries and others, the Google Flights team conducted an analysis of airfare data spanning five years, seeking dependable patterns to assist travelers in their quest. Below are the findings we discovered to assist you in your journey.
Best Days to Find Cheap Flights
In the past, it has been more cost-effective to travel during the week rather than on weekends, particularly on Sundays. On average, flights that depart on Mondays, Tuesdays, or Wednesdays have been 12% cheaper than those departing on weekends. If we consider only domestic flights, potential savings can increase to 20%.
Nonstop Flights vs. Flights with Layovers
Previously, it was advised that travelers should prioritize booking direct flights in order to minimize potential delays and cancellations during the busy summer travel season. However, according to data from Google Flights, nonstop flights are currently priced on average 20% higher than itineraries with layovers. This can be attributed to the basic principles of supply and demand, as the majority of travelers opt for nonstop flights due to their shorter duration and a lower likelihood of disruptions, driving up prices. Whether or not the inconvenience of layovers is worth the cost savings is a personal decision, but a 20% discount may be worth considering for those who are willing to tolerate layovers.
Timing Your Flight Booking for Maximum Savings
Contrary to popular belief, there is no significant advantage to purchasing your airline tickets on a specific day of the week – sorry, Tuesday! Over the past five years, shopping for flights on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays, rather than on Saturdays or Sundays, has only resulted in an average savings of 1.9%. Therefore, if your travel plans are only a few weeks away, it is advisable to book your flight now instead of waiting for Tuesday, in case the price increases.
Also, check out the airlines that serve you the best meal in the air!
Timing Your Flight Booking for Specific Travel Seasons and Destinations
Booking a flight at the right time can save you money, but the ideal number of days before departure varies depending on the travel season and destination. Here are the best times to book flights for specific scenarios:
U.S. Domestic Flights
Prices have typically been lowest 21-60 days before departure, with the lowest average prices 44 days before departure. However, these patterns may not apply to your specific route, so booking early is always a wise decision.
The lowest prices for domestic Thanksgiving travel are usually found 36-74 days before departure, with prices hitting their lowest point 52 days out.
The lowest average prices for domestic Christmas travel have been 22 days before departure, but it is recommended to book anywhere between 20 and 88 days before departure.
Spring Break Travel
For domestic trips beginning in March or April, prices have typically been lowest 23-59 days before departure, with prices hitting their lowest point 38 days out.
Summer Vacation Travel
The best time to book domestic flights for trips in July or August is 14-44 days before departure, with the lowest average prices usually 21 days out.
U.S. to Europe Flights
For trips from the U.S. to Europe, it is best to book early. The best deals were typically found 129 days before departure, and prices tend to be lower anywhere between 50 and 179 days out.
U.S. to Mexico or Caribbean Flights
Average airfares from the U.S. to Mexico or the Caribbean have been lowest between 37 and 87 days before departure, with prices hitting their lowest point 59 days out.
Booking International Flights: When to Book and Avoid Peak Travel Times
Booking in advance is generally recommended for international travel, with a suggested lead time of around six months before your desired flights. However, the optimal booking window can vary depending on your destination.
Prime Booking Windows by Destination:
- Canada: 300 days to 3.5 months before departure
- Mexico: 4.5 months to 1 month before departure
- The Caribbean: 5 months to 1.5 months before departure
- Central America: 5 months to 2 months before departure
- South America: 4.5 months to 1.5 months before departure
- Europe: 6.5 months to 1 month before departure
- Africa: 10 months to 2 months before departure
- Oceania/South Pacific: 10 to 9.5 months before departure
- Asia: 10 months before departure
- Middle East: 10 months to just under 2 months before departure
To find good deals, it is also important to avoid peak travel times, such as summer and major holidays, including holidays in your destination.
Additional Ways to Find a Good Deal on Google Flights
Check if Prices are Low, Typical, or High By searching for your origin and destination, Google Flights provides price insights to let you know whether the current price is a good deal compared to historical prices for similar flights over the past 12 months. You can also find out if prices are predicted to change significantly in the future on select searches.
Turn on Price Tracking to Get Notified of Price Changes Turn on price tracking for your destination and travel dates, and Google Flights will send you an email if prices change substantially. If you’re flexible on when to travel, you can also turn on tracking for “Any dates” to get notified of price drops for flights departing in the next 3 to 6 months.
Use the Calendar View, Date Grid, and Price Graph to Visualize Price Changes Google Flights offers a variety of visual tools to help you see how fares change. The calendar view and date grid allow you to compare prices for different departure and return dates, while the price graph shows you the price trends for an “X day” trip based on the departure date.
If you’re looking for more Google flight hacks, check out the guide to How to Use Google Flights to Find Cheap Flights?