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How far out do you book your airfare?

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Nationally Recognized

How far out do you book your airfare?

How far out do you typically buy your plane tickets? We're planning on going to London in August, and I found surprisingly affordable plane tickets, but I'm so scared to buy this early! Ha. Just curious what other folks do.

13 Replies
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Nationally Recognized

Re: How far out do you book your airfare?

I've read 120-160 days in advance for international travel. For our upcoming March 2020 New Zealand trip we were within that purchase window during Black Friday and found non-stop fights for about $844 per ticket.

 

It helps to know the average price for your desired route and monitoring price fluctuations on apps like Hopper. I think I was looking at flight prices for a few months before purchasing and knew that the price I saw was better than it had been. Prices after purchase have stayed steady at around $1050, so I'm pretty content with choice. Was hoping for a long layover flight with a stop in like Fiji or Hawaii but for the price we paid non-stop will do.

 

Hopper really does work too. I haven't purchased from it directly but it must run on an algorithm of some sort that will tell you if the price you're seeing has been historically good or not and suggest when to buy.

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Internationally Known

Re: How far out do you book your airfare?

MissMint, I'm gonna say it depends on the type of travel.  International I usually book as early as possible.  I'll shop around and look for good deals for a bit before booking.  Domestic flights I usually book Southwest so I watch for emails announcing a sale.  With Southwest I can always change the flight for a cheaper fare and not worry about change fees.  Our Asia trip (the one we just had to cancel) I booked almost a year in advance.  That was a multi city ticket and we got a great deal through the Chase Travel Portal.  Luckily for us, because of the Coronavirus I did not have to pay change fees to use the fare credits for our flight to Rome in October.  Whew!  So there is another answer, I booked 8 months in advance for that trip. 

I guess the bottom line for me is it depends on the type of travel and airline and if I'm using points or cash.  I like to have all my ducks in a row long before my trip, especially if there is a cruise involved.  

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Internationally Known

Re: How far out do you book your airfare?

Great Question.

It super depends. We tend to plan trips not super far in advance and end up booking our flights usually a month before a trip. But if we KNOW we're going somewhere and have our dates set... probably 3 month ahead. When we went to Europe for a few weeks and were going to several countries, and there were three of us, we booked further out than usual because we wanted to make sure we all got good prices. But when it's just us two we are less proactive. Sorry, that's not so helpful, but I am interested in what others say.

-Julie 

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County Wise

Re: How far out do you book your airfare?

When I'm booking international travel, I basically try to book as far out as possible - whenever the flight calendars have availability. That would probably be around 6 months out? It might even be a little bit further than that. There's a chance you could get last-minute deals, but I'd rather have it secured before the price goes even higher.

 

For my Carribean travels, I've basically booked 1-2 months out, taking advantage of super-cheap deals. They've mostly been trips to escape the winter so nothing super planned. 

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Nationally Recognized

Re: How far out do you book your airfare?

Depends on when my family is going but typically 6 months before. My family and I usually shoot for late June and about 10-12 days depending on the destination. I booked a flight to Barcelona for early July for under $1500 for four people (SCORE!!) and booked in early November and on a Thursday. This is heresy to all the web sites that SWEAR it's Tuesday. It's not.

 

I have read through all of the sites that have done number crunching. Most of them are wrong, especially in 2020. One says to buy on Tuesday after 2:30PM EST but Airlines Reporting Corporation says to buy on Sunday. Both are actually true and false. Some sites say the magic day is 171 days before you depart. Maybe a few years ago it was.

 

The best time to buy *is* early (in my opinion) or when you see that amazing deal. With it though comes the caveat that your flight times will likely change before departure. For my trip to Barcelona and Morocco this coming summer, both my inbound and outbound Barcelona flight times changed as well as my inbound Morocco flight. Not a big deal but it's the price of booking early.

 

A few years ago, I saw crazy cheap deals to Portugal for prime summer (July) travel for $1400 in October. That's 8+ months in advance! If I had to put a number on it (and you want to go prime summer), I'd say a minimum of 181 days before departure to a maximum of 256 days before departure for the absolute *best* prices.

 

I know a lot of folks glaze over when I tell them how far in advance I book because most people have no idea what they'll be doing a month from now let alone 6+ months from now. Just my 2 cents.

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Internationally Known

Re: How far out do you book your airfare?

The earlier the better is my philosophy as well.  I often have people ask why I book so early.  Well, that way I know I have the flights I want/need for my trip.  If the price goes down oh well at least I have my tickets and usually a better choice of seats (except Southwest, I always spend for early bird so I bet a better boarding number) but the majority of the time the price goes up.  I've had good luck so far.

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Internationally Known

Re: How far out do you book your airfare?

I usually book domestic flights 2-3 months out but get international flights 6-9 months out. I like to start planning the overseas trips early so it is helpful for me to know the arrival time. 

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Stately Explorer

Re: How far out do you book your airfare?

Hey Miss Mint!
Up until January of this year I booked travel for a corporation (i moved up, yay!), both international and US. After 4 years of saving the company an average of 36% annually on travel I can tell you the following:
-Book US travel around 30-19 days out. Its best to book the 3rd week of the month (It used to be Tuesday's as prices followed the stock markets but the air travel companies grew wise). Every now and then you'll get some good prices 5 weeks out BUT you won't have as many flight options because normally they release more flights around the 4 week mark. 

-If you are flexible date wise, book international flights during sales and just pick the cheapest dates. Usually international carriers will have sales in Sept/October/November for the Spring and you can get an international flight as low as $90!!! (I know, I've done it). 

- Otherwise, start tracking prices for international flights around 100 days out, theyll usually be cheapest around days 80-60. 

-NEVER book on a Friday or weekend unless you've been tracking the price and its lowered. Those are the highest prices. 

-Holidays are your friend! Anytime there is a major holiday check all the flights!!!

-If you CAN fly on Friday the 13th, do. Usually people don't want to fly on that day and prices will drop.

-End of a quarter is also a good time to book! Like car dealerships, air travel companies have quotas, if they didnt hit their quarterly $$$ quotas they will have a big sell of and try to move all their flights. So you'll get "random" sales the last 2-3 weeks of a quarter. If they DID hit their quotas the prices will normally go up for the most popular flights (LAX to NYC or LDN to NYC, popular stuff). So if that happens you wanna wait until the next quarter.

-September and April are the cheapest months to fly internationally!!! 

- SOMETIMES IT IS CHEAPER JUST TO GET ABROAD. We had a group that needed to get to Paris for a conference but flights to Paris were INSANE. So I booked flights for 1/3rd the price to Amsterdam and then they took secondary flights to Paris for $35 a pop. Totally worth it as we saved almost $3k for the 5 flights. 
- Another note! If you are heading to an asian country, especially Singapore or Japan, go to their main webpage via their country code. For instance, if you head to the Japan Airlines or All Nippon Airlines via their .com website it will charge you MORE than if you went to their .jp website. Once it was the difference of $500 for a Seattle to Tokyo flight. I have only found marginal savings in this manner with European flights though so it may just be the asian airline companies.

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Internationally Known

Re: How far out do you book your airfare?

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