So a lot of people ask me when is the best time to book flights – should you wait until the last minute when (theoretically) the airline is desperate to get rid of the last few seats, should you book as early as possible once you know what dates you will be flying or should you just keep an eye on flights and try to gauge what way the prices are going? Well fear not, this article will (hopefully) point you in the right direction so you can avail of as many cheap flights as possible and hence, go on as many holidays as possible!! Based on studies by CheapAir (who took data from 3 million airline trips), Momondo (who looked at an astonishing 7.5 billion flights) and SkyScanner (who looked at data from 250 million flights), they all had similar findings. CheapAir found that 54 days prior to the flight is the optimum time to book, Momondo found that 53 days was the best and SkyScanner reported that 49 days is the best. Overall, it seems that any time in the 7-8 week window is cheapest time to book.
Within this 7 to 8 week window, are there any specific days of the week that are best to book? Data from Expedia suggests that Saturday or Sunday are the best days to book as there is usually a lull due to the lack of business flights being booked. According to SkyScanner, their theory is that Tuesdays are the best day to book, as many airlines release different deals and promotions on Tuesdays. One thing that is clear however, is that Friday is the worst day to book – again, Expedia have done their research and reported that many airlines tend to launch price hikes on a Friday and have often run out of cheap seats at this stage. Overall it seems that weekends and early in the week is prime time to book although the evidence seems to vary slightly depending on which study you look at.
Another great way to save a few quid is by keeping an eye out for different airlines flash sales. From my own experience, Ryanair are the obvious example that spring to mind. I booked flights a few days from London Stansted to Faro in Portugal for €45 for a weekend – not bad considering it’s a three hour flight each way. Making my way to and from the airport will probably cost more!! But by watching out for these sales and doing a bit of shopping around i.e. what airport to fly from, what weekend you can go and what you destination is, you can nab a bargain – you just have to be flexible and put a bit of time into assessing your available options. A handy tip for looking at the best price is to search the route using a flight search engine and setting the dates to a whole month. This way you can see which dates are cheapest and you can work around what dates suit you.
Also, I know from experience that if you book flights one way to your destination and book a separate flight back, it can sometimes work out cheaper, particularly when you’re using a search engine. By using this method you have more control over your options – you could fly back from a cheaper airport, whenever you want so it has the potential for savings. In line with this, flying back from different airports can be a great way to spend a night or two in an additional city. For example, I flew to Malaga a few months ago and flew back from Gibraltar airport – I got the chance to spend a day in Gibraltar visiting the sites before flying home. If you want to read more about my time in Gibraltar, you can find it here http://www.thepathto100.com/gibraltar-what-to-see-and-do-in-a-day-trip/). Going down this route does mean that you will need to check public transport to the different city and how it coincides with your flight times. You may find that in some places buses don’t run on a Sunday for example, so this needs to be checked prior to booking or it could cause you considerable stress!
In terms of actually searching for flights online, it’s always wise to try a few different search engines. They are usually broadly similar but at the same time, sometimes there can be a few quid in the difference which might as well be in your pocket as someone elses. Furthermore, once you carry out a search using a search engine, you should be able to see the flight times and the airline you will be flying with. Depending on the search engine company, they sometimes have additional fees added in so it can be worth your while to go onto the airlines own website and check prices if you booked direct.
Another thing to watch out for is booking somewhere popular at peak time – according to SkyScanner, the 7-8 week rule doesn’t apply to these. The example they used was booking flights to Florida for Spring Break – here, the initial flight price will never fall as demand increases more and more in the lead up to the flight. In this case, book as early as you can to get the better deals.
So that’s pretty much everything I know about booking flights!! There are a million different hints and tips to try get the best deal so hopefully I have covered the main issues above. As always, if you have anything to add or any questions, feel free to leave a comment below. One final piece of advice – whenever you can, just be impulsive and book flights. Throw caution to the wind and say to hell with it. A weekend away here and there is something you won’t forget and with the amount of cheap flights at our doorstep at the moment, it’s something we should all be taking advantage of.
Thanks for reading.