Best Time To Buy Plane Tickets in 2024

Book early but not too early and plan to fly mid-week to save more.
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Toy plane on computer keyboard.

Buying plane tickets is part of many travel plans but it can also put a serious dent in your travel budget if you don't book at the right time. There are certain tips and tricks that are still circulating about the best time to buy plane tickets, but is there any truth to them? Considering that ticket prices are on the rise again for a variety of reasons and some airlines are even raising checked luggage prices, it's more important than ever to book at the right time for the best price.

To help make sure your travel budget goes as far as possible, we've put together guidelines on the best time to buy plane tickets in 2024.

When Is the Best Day to Buy An Airline Ticket for Domestic U.S. Flights?

This might not be as easy to determine as the myths suggest. For years now, it's commonly been quoted that buying a plane ticket on a Tuesday is a surefire way to get the lowest price, but there's no evidence to suggest this is actually true. Instead, when booking a domestic U.S. flight, the answers can vary quite a bit.

For example, some industry experts suggest the ideal time to buy a plane ticket is no earlier than 164 days before your trip and no later than 46 days before your trip. However, other experts say there's actually a sweet spot you can hit by waiting just a bit longer, until around 28 days before your departure.

It's important to pay attention to price fluctuations and to be cautious with your departure date. Many airlines seem to release their fares roughly a year before a flight date and at that point, the prices are typically at their highest. They'll slowly drop over time and then jump again during the short home stretch right before departure. Because of that, it's a good idea to pick your travel time and start looking at fares as soon as possible so that you can track the prices and get the best one.

When Is the Best Day to Buy an Airline Ticket for International Flights?

Finding the best prices for international flights might be even tougher because depending on where you're traveling to, the timeframe for getting the lowest fare may vary. For instance, in general you shouldn't book your international flight more than four months ahead of time as doing so will increase your chances of actually paying more. And if you feel like gambling, you can wait as late as 60 days before your trip to buy your ticket and still find a good rate.

If you're concerned with regional variances, it's important to note that the range of time for booking those flights is pretty broad. While that might not seem very helpful, the truth is that it's just further proof of how hard it can be to determine airline price trends in 2024. Regardless of the region, it seems that you should purchase your plane tickets no earlier than 10 months before your departure date. But if you want to wait longer, that's where the real differences come in. In that case, you should buy your plane tickets no later than the following time frames:

  • Canada: 3 months before departure
  • Mexico: 1.5 months before departure
  • The Caribbean: 2 months before departure
  • Central America: 3 months before departure
  • South America: 2.5 months before departure
  • Europe: 1.5 months before departure
  • Africa: 2.5 months before departure
  • Oceania/South Pacific: 1.5 months before departure
  • Asia: 4.5 months before departure
  • Middle East: 2.5 months before departure

What Criteria Should I Use When Shopping for Flights?

Price: Figure out your budget and then use flight tools to compare fares and watch for price dips.

Schedule: Be flexible with your schedule but try to find the flights that best suit it so that you don't have to worry about too many layovers or inconvenient departure times which could increase your risk of missing a flight.

Airline reputation: Especially if it's a major trip, it's important to look into an airline's reputation before booking. Look for stories on how they handle customer service as well as things like carry-on and checked bags, and if they tend to run on-time or not.

Cancellation policies: Regardless of where you're heading, be sure to read up on the cancellation policy before buying your ticket. That way you'll know if you need to consider other aspects like travel insurance in case you suddenly have to cancel your trip.

How Do Airfare Booking Zones Impact My Airfare Shopping?

Airfare Booking Zones are kind of like loading zones you encounter at the airport gate. Except in this case these are the "zones" for finding the best prices on plane tickets. They include:

First Dibs

 This is the earliest zone and occurs 7.5 to 10 months before departure, or 315 to 206 days before departure. While the deals might not be strong during this period, the choices will be at their best, so if you're very particular about where you like to sit when flying, when you fly, or which class, then this may be the best time to book.

Peace of Mind

This period is roughly 2.5 to 7.5 months out or 205 to 75 days before departure. If you book during this time, you'll be getting the best of both worlds. That is, you'll be able to find a good mix of low prices and a decent selection of seats, classes, and dates.

Prime Booking Window

This period falls about 2.5 months to 3 weeks before your trip or 74 to 21 days before you leave. This is the zone that repeatedly provides the lowest flight prices for travelers, so if you're only concerned with getting the best price, this is the time frame to buy your fare.

Push Your Luck

If you don't mind a gamble, you can wait roughly 3 to 2 weeks before buying your ticket or approximately 20 to 14 days before departure. Rates may actually increase just before this period begins, around 21 days before your trip, so you could end up paying noticeably more if you take this gamble. Even so, it should still be cheaper than waiting until the very last minute.

Playing With Fire

This period is 13 to 7 days before your trip and usually marks an even larger increase in fares as well as decreased availability in everything else, including seats, times, and classes. You'll also pay even more than the Push Your Luck window.

Hail-Mary

This window is for the travelers who wish to grab a last-minute flight, and falls a mere 6 to 0 days before your trip. There's a slim chance you'll be able to find a decent deal but odds are better that you'll end up paying 50% or more for your fare than you would have if you'd purchased during the Prime Booking window.

Is There a Best Day of the Week to Buy Flights?

There's a pervasive myth that Tuesdays through Thursdays offer the best prices on flights, but there's not really any truth to that. Where it actually matters is when you fly. Often lower rates will occur during the week, with it being cheaper to fly on Tuesday for domestic flights and Wednesday or Thursday for international flights compared to flying over the weekend. However, this isn't set in stone either, and it's important to be flexible and monitor routes so that you can get the best fares.

In general, the most expensive days to fly in order are as follows:

  1. Sunday
  2. Friday
  3. Monday
  4. Saturday
  5. Thursday
  6. Tuesday
  7. Wednesday

If you're looking for the lowest fare, start by studying Wednesdays during your travel period and go from there.

Is There a Cheapest Month to Fly?

The cheapest month to fly will be dependent on where you're traveling to. While in general January and February could see cheaper rates due to a lull in travel overall, certain destinations will have different timeframes that are cheaper to travel. Because of that, you'll want to research your preferred locations and see what their shoulder and off-seasons look like to find the balance of the best value and other elements like weather, amenities, and experiences.

January and February are the months with the lowest airfare prices on average — roughly $320 to $330, respectively — while the rest of the months in cheapest order are:

  • December (~$350)
  • May (~$390)
  • April (~$400)
  • March/September (~$410)
  • August (~$420)
  • October (~$430)
  • June (~$435)
  • July (~$450)
  • November (~$460)

If you're flexible enough to consider a whole month when planning your trip, this is a good order to do so to find the cheapest times of year to travel.

How Do Airfare Prices Differ By Season?

Airfare prices can be heavily determined by the season. For instance, the high season in general is summer as well as December because these are time periods when there are a ton of people traveling. While they might not all be going to in-demand destinations, the rates could still be higher because airlines are taking advantage of the influx of travelers.

What's known as the shoulder season is often considered to be spring and fall, when travelers can expect moderate prices with generally pleasant weather and fewer people visiting at the same time, even for in-demand locales. Obviously those elements can vary depending on where you're traveling to, but for the most part this is the kind of thing you can expect.

The low season is generally referred to as falling during late winter. This can be the utmost cheapest time to travel but there can also be drawbacks in the form of less than ideal weather and less daylight so longer nights overall. Even if you're heading to the beach, temperatures will likely be much cooler during this time of year and some tourist areas may be shut down for the season, so you may find yourself limited on what kinds of activities are available.

Watch for the lowest average seasonal prices to be around the following:

  • Winter $343
  • Spring $402
  • Summer $435
  • Fall $438

While these aren't the absolute lowest rates we could see, it should give you an idea of what to expect if you're planning a trip that involves some seasonal features, such as leaf-peeping in the northeast or taking advantage of outdoor excursions in warm weather.

How Far in Advance Should I Book a Flight?

For international flights, a good general rule of thumb is to book no earlier than 10 months ahead of time, with shorter timeframes being dependent on the region you're traveling to. When booking a domestic flight, the sweet spot seems to be 28 days before departure, though you may be able to find solid deals 46 days before if you'd rather book earlier and not risk missing the cheaper window.

How Do I Find a Price Guarantee Flight?

Many online travel agencies such as Orbitz will advertise price guarantees for their flights in an effort to nudge travelers into booking. If you're booking directly with an airline, they may still be available, but you may have to look a little harder in order to find policies like this. Some that have offered guarantees before include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Frontier Airlines. When in doubt, don't be afraid to ask customer service if something like this is offered and how you can sign up for it.

If you do handle it on your own, be sure to understand what the price guarantee means. As a general definition, it's simply that if you book a flight and the fare drops afterwards, you can be refunded the difference. It's basically a price adjustment for an airfare. However, it's important to note if the price must fall within a certain timeframe or if you'll be ineligible due to your destination or route, so make sure to read the fine print before blindly booking a price guaranteed flight.

Plane flying in sunset sky.

What Else Should I Consider When Shopping for Flight Deals?

Frequent Flyer Programs

If you're going to be doing a lot of flying, consider signing up for frequent flyer programs so that you can earn perks on all the trips you take. They can also offer potential upgrades and better fares in general, among other perks.

Alternative Airports

It may be convenient to fly out of an airport in your hometown, but if you're worried about price or even travel days, it could be helpful to look at flights out of other airports you can easily get to. You could find lower fares and save a significant amount by doing so.

Package Deals

If you prefer to use an online travel agency rather than booking directly with an airline, you may want to consider booking extras like lodging or car rentals at the same time. Doing so could result in notable savings, especially if you're planning to book these kinds of extras anyway.

Payment Methods

If you have a rewards credit card, consider using it to book your flight. As this is generally an expensive purchase, earning rewards on your fare or receiving things like additional discounts or travel insurance at no extra cost can make a big difference.

Time of Day

When preparing to book a flight, it's best to consider all elements that make a flight less in-demand. For instance, flying certain days of the week or times of year can definitely be cheaper because there's low demand during those times, but this strategy can also extend to time of day as well. Flights that depart very early in the morning or very late at night may carry a cheaper price tag than those during the busier times of day.

Holiday Timing

It's important to be aware of any holidays that might be falling during your travel period, even if you don't celebrate.

Spring Break

If you're planning to travel around spring break, then it's best to book your trip around February if spring break falls during the month of March. However, you might want to pad out your booking even more, and try to buy plane tickets between three months and one month before departure. During the last three to four weeks before your trip is when prices have a greater chance of increasing.

Summer Vacation

If you're planning a domestic summer vacation, the good news is that you should be able to book your flight one to two months before your trip. However, depending on when you travel will affect when to start watching fares for discounts. If you're traveling over Memorial Day, you'll obviously need to start monitoring prices sooner than if you're planning a trip for Independence Day.

Thanksgiving and Christmas

When it comes to booking Thanksgiving travel, you can start checking prices as soon as August, though you may not want to book just yet. Lower fares should come in September and October, with some industry experts recommending you book your fares by mid-October for Thanksgiving and Christmas travel. At the latest, you can wait until Halloween to book your winter holiday travel, but any later than that and you'll pay for your procrastination.

Airline Prices Will Fluctuate

Unfortunately, there's no easy way to ensure you're getting the lowest fare possible when buying a plane ticket in 2024. You can do everything right and buy at the optimum time and it could still drop later on before your trip. It's all because no matter what, airfares are going to fluctuate.

Timing is going to matter a fair amount when buying a plane ticket, as fares don't get cheaper the closer to departure, and can even be more expensive if you book too early. However, even if you find the right booking window, other things can affect pricing, including seasonality, holidays, and the day you choose to fly. Because of that, it's important to consider many elements when trying to ensure you book the lowest fare for your trip.

It can be overwhelming when planning a trip and trying to figure out when to travel to get the most out of your vacation. But with this guide, it should help to at least make it easier to figure out the best time to buy plane tickets in 2024. And if you're ready to book, check out all the best travel deals available right now.

Julie Ramhold
Senior Staff Writer/Consumer Analyst

Julie's work has been featured on CNBC, GoBankingRates, Kiplinger, Marketwatch, Money, The New York Times, Real Simple, US News, WaPo, WSJ, Yahoo!, and more. She's extolled the virtues of DealNews in interviews with Cheddar TV, GMA, various podcasts, and affiliates across the United States, plus one in Canada.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).

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Reckless013
Thank you :)