What’s the best time to book a flight?

What’s the best time to book a flight? It’s a question that leads to more questions. Like, which day of the week is the most price friendly? Does the day you fly—as opposed to the day you buy—make a difference? And how far in advance should you book? 

In reality, there aren’t a lot of hard-and-fast rules. But these strategies could help you save money. 

Key takeaways

  • Lots of factors can affect the price of plane tickets, including seasonality, inflation and competition between airlines.
  • There’s no ideal day of the week or time of year to buy, but there are strategies for finding a better price. 
  • Travel tools like those offered through Capital One Travel can help you save money. 
  • Capital One rewards credit cards can also help. You can earn unlimited miles on every purchase and then use your miles to book flights. 

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Is there a best day of the week to book a flight?

When it comes to the best day to book a flight, there isn’t a clear winner. Tuesdays are suggested by some industry experts. But so are Fridays and Sundays. 

But since there’s no universally acknowledged best day of the week, it may help to do some research of your own. You might consider comparing prices for several airlines, checking with a travel agency or reading blogs by industry insiders.

How early should you book a flight?

Wondering about how to time your ticket purchase? It might help to keep a few things in mind:

  • Airlines generally allow customers to book flights up to a year in advance. 
  • Once a flight is scheduled, its ticket price typically fluctuates over time.
  • As a flight’s departure date gets closer, ticket prices can rise—sometimes substantially. 

For those reasons, booking early may sometimes be more economical. It could also be more convenient since you may have more flights to choose from.

Factors that can influence the cost of airfare

A number of factors can contribute to the cost of a flight, including:

1. The distance you’re traveling

Longer-distance flights tend to be more expensive for airlines to operate. That’s because the costs of things like fuel and labor are generally higher the longer a plane’s in the air. Airlines typically pass those kinds of costs on to their passengers.

2. Whether the flight is domestic or international

Since distance can affect flight prices—and international flights tend to cover more distance—a flight abroad will often cost more. Taxes paid by airlines to governments around the world can also affect ticket prices. So can extreme weather events since they can cause cancellations, which are expensive for airlines.

3. When you book

The day of the week you make your purchase could influence the cost of your plane ticket. So could how early you book your ticket once the purchase window opens. 

4. Supply and demand

The law of supply and demand can impact all kinds of prices, including air travel. When there are fewer flights to a particular destination, that can translate to higher demand—and higher prices.

5. The season

Seasonality can play a major role in the price of a flight. If you travel during peak times like summer or holidays when many other people are flying, you may pay more for a ticket. Flying to destinations hosting major events—like New Orleans during Mardi Gras—could also raise the price of your ticket.

6. Competition among airlines

When airlines compete, passengers can benefit. For example, airlines may try to attract new customers by discounting prices to fly into a competitor’s hub. Competition can also lower prices for flying in and out of major markets served by multiple airlines, like Los Angeles and Atlanta. At the same time, competition could lead to higher prices for routes served by fewer airlines. 

7. Inflation

When inflation increases prices in industries across the U.S., the travel industry can be affected, too. That can mean higher prices for plane tickets since airlines may be paying more for things like fuel, oil, labor and food.

How to find cheaper flight prices

Here are some strategies for economizing on the price of your next plane ticket.

Plan ahead and book flights in advance

When it comes to travel, planning ahead is almost always a good idea. While that sometimes applies to purchasing a plane ticket, that’s not always the case.

Check out these considerations around the timing of your purchase:

  • Holidays: It can help to start keeping an eye on holiday flights early and then booking a few months in advance. For example, some industry experts suggest September for booking flights for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
  • Spring break: Spring break is such a popular time for getaways that It’s generally recommended travelers purchase their tickets up to 6 months in advance.
  • Summer: Like spring break travel, summer vacations are extremely popular. That can make it hard to find a good deal, so you may want to book as far in advance as possible. At the same time, prices can come down as summer progresses, so checking flights in July and August could help you find last-minute deals. 
  • International flights vs. domestic flights: Some industry insiders caution against booking domestic flights too close to the opening of the purchase window. They say that’s generally less of a concern when booking international flights. 

It may also help to know that ticket prices may fluctuate more in the days before a travel date, when prices may be more actively managed by airlines. And that last-minute booking close to a departure date could mean fewer choices and higher prices. 

Be flexible: Travel when there’s less demand

Being flexible with your travel dates could open up opportunities for cheaper flights. For example, you could plan to fly midweek, when there may be less competition for seats from weekend travelers. 

With fluid timing, you could also avoid traveling around holidays, during school breaks and while a city is hosting a major event. These can be some of the most expensive times to fly.

You might even try reversing the usual order of booking a trip. You could find an affordable flight first and then plan your vacation—everything from hotel reservations to tickets for local attractions—around it.

Travel on holidays

Traveling on the actual day of a holiday may not always be ideal, but it could help save you money. So consider arriving at your destination on a holiday rather than slightly before it. That’s because flights a day or two before and after major holidays are generally more expensive.

Choose a flight with connections

Connecting flights require you to get off one plane and board another on the way to your destination. They may not be as convenient as nonstop flights, but they can be more affordable.

So if you don’t need to go directly from one place to another, you could intentionally book a flight that involves a connection. You may need to spend a few hours in the airport waiting for your next flight—or you could see a place that’s new to you by adding a few days in your stopover location to your trip.

Use travel tools, like those offered through Capital One Travel

Capital One Travel helps cardholders find flights—and saves them 15% on average.1 How? By partnering with travel-tech leader Hopper to analyze billions of data points on real flight prices every day. 

Here are some tools and benefits you’ll get when booking flights through Capital One Travel:

  • Price prediction tool: Capital One and Hopper develop algorithms to analyze pricing trends, and then recommend flights. You can book a flight through Capital One Travel when you find it, or wait for a better price. In that case, the tool recommends the best time to book. Keep in mind that because many factors affect ticket prices, no prediction tool can be 100% accurate.
  • Price alerts: You can set price alerts on flights you’re considering. Capital One Travel watches the flight 24/7 and sends an email when it’s the best time to book. 
  • Price drop protection: If you’re searching for flights and the price prediction tool recommends booking now, you’ll get free price drop protection. That means Capital One Travel will monitor the price of the flight for 10 days after you buy it. If the price drops, Capital One Travel will give you up to $50 in travel credit for the difference. 
  • Price freezing before booking: When you want extra time before deciding to book a flight, you could use the price-freeze benefit. For some flights offered through Capital One Travel, you can freeze the ticket price for a period of time by paying a small fee. 
  • Price matching after booking: What happens when you find a better price for a flight—or hotel or rental car—on another site within 24 hours of booking through Capital One Travel? Qualifying customers can get a travel credit for the difference in price.
  • Flight cancellation for any reason: For a small fee, you can add the option to cancel your flight for any reason with no penalties. You can cancel up to a set time within 24 hours of your scheduled departure.

Book with travel rewards credit cards 

Capital One travel rewards credit cards give you even more ways to get the most out of your travel. You’ll earn unlimited miles on every purchase you make. And you can use your card to book any airline, anytime, anywhere with no seat restrictions or blackout dates. 

You can also redeem your travel rewards for rental cars, hotels, ride-hailing apps, cruises and more. Plus, your miles don’t expire for the life of the account.

You won’t pay a foreign transaction fee when making a purchase outside the United States with Capital One travel rewards cards. View important rates and disclosures. And some allow you to earn credits for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®,2 and visits to Capital One Lounges and lounges in Capital One’s Partner Lounge Network.3

When to book flights in a nutshell

The fact is, there’s no one answer when it comes to the best time to book a flight. Industry experts have lots of opinions on the best days to book, the best days to fly, and how far ahead to buy. 

While lots of factors can influence the price of a plane ticket, there may be ways to economize. They can include traveling when there’s less demand, choosing flights with connections and booking early—or sometimes even booking at the last minute, when deals might be available.

You could also book flights through Capital One Travel for added convenience and help finding better prices—no matter the day of the week or time of year.

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