When to buy airline tickets

I was recently purchasing my plane tickets for my trip home over Thanksgiving weekend. After experiencing a real-life example of a price gouge, I asked myself if I was buying these plane tickets at the right time to minimize the price that I have to pay. My thinking was that there must be some sort of “sweet spot” for when plane tickets are cheapest. I wasn’t sure if it would just the earlier the better as airlines can charge more as people become more desperate to book a trip, or if you could actually book a flight too early.

When reading a bit about this, I found a few interesting theories out there to minimize the cost of your travel. Besides the obvious advice for remaining flexible for day and time, which is often the best way to find a cheap flight, there are beliefs that number of days prior to your trip, and even day of the week can be significant in finding a cheap flight.

One finding, from Lifehacker.com, comes from Peter Greenberg, the Travel Editor for CBS News, was that unless you are booking for an high traffic period like Christmas, or Thanksgiving, booking 45 days in advance to your travel date offers the best chance to receive the cheapest flight. As this date is already passed for Thanksgiving break (sorry…) I will mention a few of the other theories for finding the cheapest ticket that you can.

Greenberg also mentions that many of the best deals for flights appear on Sunday and Monday nights. After booking, customers have 24 hours to purchase, and all of the tickets that didn’t end up being purchased come flooding back into the market on Wednesday night. He pins down Wednesday at 1 AM as the optimal day/time to purchase an airline ticket. Here is the link to the article for further details.

The Wall Street Journal wrote an article that came up with similar findings, that Tuesday and Wednesday are the best days to purchase airline tickets. The reasoning for this is that when airlines want to increase fares, they will most often do so on a Thursday to see if competitors match the price increase over the weekend. If they do not, then prices can be rolled back on Monday, leaving some of the best deals for Tuesdays. They were able to prove these results with some simple averaging, finding that this weekly price fluctuation exists in the air travel fare market.

Obviously, this is no guarantee to always find the best deals, but this result of Tuesday or Wednesday having the best deals for airline tickets seems to be a consensus among the pros out there. Just something to keep in mind when booking for your trips home during the holiday seasons.

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