1. Start searching as early as possible
Airlines generally release tickets 11 months in advance. Once you know your destination start searching and continue to check at least once per week.
Flight prices are live and fluctuate constantly due to supply and demand, so have a price in mind YOU are comfortable paying and be ready to jump on it.
Sure, there are last-minute deals that might beat what you’ve already paid, but that’s not guaranteed. If you want to play the game of waiting for a bargain, you’re better off NOT having a fixed destination in mind. More on that down below.
2. When is the best time to BUY your ticket?
There really is no hard and fast rule. However, there are some general trends to be aware of.
Peak season and holiday weekends will have the most demand, so expect higher prices. You can, however, stack the odds in your favor by buying at a certain time.
A study by CheapAir who analyzed 560 million flight searches, found an optimal time to buy was on average 7 weeks in advance (for domestic flights). Others have suggested a sweet spot of between 3-7 weeks in advance.
The WORST time was within 14 days of flying, or too far in advance, more than 5 months.
For international flights, Cheap Air found the sweet spot is 11-12 weeks prior to departure. As for which day of the week to buy on, they suggest no particular day was better than the other and buying on a Tuesday and Wednesday was somewhat of an urban legend.
3. What is the best DAY to fly?
It might not matter when you buy your tickets, but cheap flights can certainly be found depending on the DAY you choose to fly!
The consensus is that it’s best to FLY OUT on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday. These are typical off-peak days with airlines carrying fewer business travelers, usually meaning lower fares and a surplus of seats. You also have a better chance of grabbing frequent flyer seats on these days (which we love).
Fridays and Sundays are usually the most expensive days to fly.
And don’t get confused with the idea that buying a ticket on a certain day will result in lower airfare. That’s a separate thing to the day you actually fly!
It has been suggested to try these combinations:
- Domestic: depart Saturday, return on a Monday.
- International: depart Tuesday, return on a Wednesday.
4. Be flexible with your flight dates
The best tactic for finding cheap flights is to be FLEXIBLE with your travel dates. Give yourself the best chance by searching a couple of days, or even weeks, either side of your preferred departure date.
If you are locked into exact dates, it will be more challenging to get the best deal.
5. Adjust your time of day for flying
If you can’t change the date of your flight, play around with the time of day you choose to fly, which can change the price dramatically.
Flying at unpopular hours, such as the red-eye or early in the AM instead of late morning through afternoon, increases your chance of getting the best deal. Most of the time, the cheapest flights leave either very early in the morning or late at night.
6. Identify the cheapest payment method.
Recently I got stung with a $94 fee for booking flights using my credit card, which I now avoid on cheap domestic flights.
In Australia, Qantas lets you pay using BPAY from a debit account, and Jetstar and Virgin through the POLi system which is also a direct debit payment from your chosen bank account.
I still use my credit card however when purchasing the more expensive international flights to gain those credit card member benefits and frequent flyer points, and for added consumer protection.
7. Check alternate airports
If there is more than one airport near your origin or final destination, check them both. The more options you have in terms of airports and travel dates, the more likely you will be to finding cheap flights.
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