We love to travel, but plane tickets are often so expensive that sometimes I’d rather take a long road trip where we get 32 miles to the gallon and can bring unlimited snacks and liquids (no 3 oz. baggies required) than hop on a plane with limited leg room and baggage restrictions. But you can’t drive to Europe.
Or an island.
It’s almost Spring Break for us — and yes, I’m no longer in school, but Will is, so “Spring Break” is still happening. In planning our upcoming getaway, I learned a few helpful travel tips, including when you should buy plane tickets.
++BUY PLANE TICKETS ON A SUNDAY
In mid-December, Expedia, in partnership with the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) and other industry sources, released a comprehensive study of worldwide air travel trends. After examining billions of passenger flights from January 1, 2016, through October 24, 2016, the study concluded that Sunday is the best day to buy plane tickets. When booked on a Sunday, prices were, on average, 11% lower for domestic travel. From the U.S. to Europe, Sunday ticket savings were as much as 16%.
Per the study, ticket prices are the lowest they have been since 2013, and the ARC predicts that overall ticket prices will continue to drop. What’s this mean for 2017? It’s an incredible year to travel! ARC analysts predict that competition will continue to flood the market, which means more options for travelers.
++ BOOK YOUR FLIGHTS 21 DAYS IN ADVANCE
There is one caveat to the “book on a Sunday” rule. The study showed that some trips were up to 30% cheaper when booked three weeks before the departure date versus flights booked within the 21-day window. Other online sources believe that the “prime booking window” for domestic flights is between one and four months when airlines are likely to introduce sale fares.
If you can’t help being a last-minute traveler — meaning, within the 3-week timeframe — you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for Tuesday afternoons. By this point, airlines will know if their weekend flights are fully booked. Keep in mind that flights really are more expensive the closer you get to your departure date. Why? Seats at the lowest fare levels sell out as a flight fills. This is when it’s extra important to sign up for price alerts.
++ BUY A ONE-WAY TICKET BOTH WAYS
If you’re willing to put in the time, it can be worth it to buy two one-way tickets. We love the ease of using Google Flights to book our trips, but it doesn’t always show us the best combination of flights, especially because it doesn’t pull Southwest or budget airline information. We like to mix and match our airlines for travel, which can work great if you’re willing to do your research.
++ AVOID THE BUSINESS COMMUTE
Try to avoid flying on Friday. This is a big travel day in the business world and airlines know it, which means they aren’t afraid to increase the prices for flights they know they can fill.
++ BE FLEXIBLE
Not set on a date? Enjoy the flexibility of your journey and use the map on Google Flights or Skyscanner to explore inexpensive options. You select your departure airport and Google/Skyscanner will populate prices for different destinations.
The price of a flight is determined by how booked that flight is. Empty flights will run their lowest possible fares. The same cannot be said of full flights. The easiest way to save money is to avoid traveling to a popular place a popular time. Otherwise, book your flight early.
With all of these tips in mind, it’s important to remember that the cheapest flight isn’t always the best flight. Watch out for hidden fees, long layovers, and inconvenient departure airports. (How many of my DC friends have gotten excited about a cheap flight out of a “DC area airport” only to realize it took off from BWI?)
Now it’s your turn. What’s your best air travel tip?
Until next time & happy travels,