Reader Question: “Book Now or Wait for Cheaper Prices?”

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Reader Melissa asks “The prices for booking a trip right now seem pretty high. Is there a time I can book where the prices will be cheaper? Or, should I take the best deal I see now?”

When looking to book flights, I sometimes find myself setting everything up but then chickening out before hitting the button. What if there is a better deal coming up? What if the airline will have a flash sale starting tomorrow for my exact travel dates? That would be just my luck.

What’s the best day to book, again? Is it Tuesday? Is it four months before departure? It’s all a bit much to keep track of when making travel plans, and maybe in the end it isn’t worth it to try. Or is it? Here are a few tips and tools to help prevent the booking jitters, and help you make travel plans with confidence!

Use Hopper

First, it doesn’t hurt to use an app that follows pricing trends for you. One such app is called Hopper. Hopper was built for travelers who know roughly when they want to fly, but don’t necessarily know when to book. Simply enter your departure location and your destination and Hopper will display a calendar view of potential travel dates that are broken down by price range. Choose your travel dates, and Hopper will scan relevant flights for pricing information.

Then, Hopper will offer you some advice regarding whether to wait or to book now. The price trend predicts specific dates during which the price will rise or fall some amount of money, and Hopper provides insight based on that. You can choose to watch the flight more closely, at which point Hopper will send notifications to your phone, alerting you of price trend updates.

Although its database is not complete with information from every airline, it is a great tool to use when attempting to understand pricing trends!

Book During the Off-Season

If you have the freedom, one way to assure a good price is to purposely book during the off-season of your destination. Often times, airlines will run sales for such seasons simply to encourage visitors to come during that time in an attempt to normalize the distribution of tourists over the year.

Sign up for rewards programs for airlines you wish to use, and make sure that you check the box that allows the airline to send deals directly to your inbox. While none of us like to be spammed by anybody, it saves time (and probably money) to be notified directly when flash sales are happening, rather than having to check airline websites directly.

Be Flexible

When looking for the best time to buy tickets, it is difficult to put good faith in one solid number of weeks or months before departure. This is because airfare has dropped significantly over the last few years, and the success of budget airlines has actually made it less beneficial to wait last minute for flights as flights are filling up easily.

Skyscanner claims that their big data structure points to booking flights seven weeks in advance for the best price, although this is likely just a bump in the statistical distribution of price trends. Skyscanner is actually one of the best resources to use if you are a flexible traveler, because Skyscanner will choose a destination for you based on the best price for a certain time of year, if you run a search that allows it to do so.

For the best price, flexibility is key. If you are flexible, then you can book based on the best time to travel rather than having to find the best time to book!

The Tuesday Myth, etc.

If airlines run a weekend sale, then the rest of the unsold seats are generally offloaded at a sweet reduced price on Tuesdays. This works, provided the airline is attempting to sell the undersold seats within a couple days of the actual sale. However, all is not lost if Wednesday rolls around and you haven’t booked your flight!

According to Greg Schulze, senior vice president of global tour and transport with Expedia, there are no obvious good days to buy flights from the analysis of millions of tickets sold, but there is one really bad day: Friday. By Friday, airlines have already run out of cheap seats for many flights and therefore, the reported price for such flights is much higher. However, by Saturday and Sunday, prices plummet again because weekend deals come out and business travelers are generally not trying to buy flights on weekends. This ends up thinning the market a bit, and frugal travelers can pounce on the deals.

The International Air Transport Association notes that booking flights to Europe around 140 days in advance, and within the US around 57 days in advance, is a decent rule of thumb. This is because US-based airlines do not actively monitor the prices of future flights until three months before departure for domestic flights, and five or six months for international flights.

However, you may not have five or six months to plan your next international flight, so trying to keep track of these numbers may not be beneficial for you. So really, the best way to find a great deal is to utilize flight comparison apps (like Hopper and Skyscanner) that are designed to do this for you, and keep in mind that you are unlikely to find the best deal at the end of the work week. With these tips in mind, you can kick the booking jitters and book your next flight with confidence!

How do you make sure you are getting the best price on your tickets?

Caroline Lupini
In 2011, with a four-week trip around Europe, Caroline became a true road warrior. Caroline likes to mix roughing it and luxury on her travels, sometimes staying in five-star hotels and other times in hostels. Her mantra: splurge…
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Earn (pt.)

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First 3 months

50,000

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Restaurants Purchases

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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Annual Fee: $95 fee waived for the first year
  • Foreign Fees: No
  • Card Type: Bank
FTG Review Reward Breakdown Points Breakdown
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption – Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, July 2016
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions – as long as there’s a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

Breakdown

Earn (pt.)

Spend


First 3 months

50,000

$4,000


Travel Purchases

2.00

$1


Restaurants Purchases

2.00

$1


Coffee Shops Purchases

2.00

$1


Fast Food Purchases

2.00

$1


Alcohol & Bars Purchases

2.00

$1


All Purchases

1.00

$1


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