Trying to save money on airline tickets? With the average round-trip airfare hovering around $400 for domestic trips, of course you want to snag the lowest fare possible. To get the best price, there are a couple of hacks you should know about, and one has to do with when you buy the tickets.
We’re not just talking about the best day to buy, but the best time of day — and which times you should be avoiding.
Don’t Buy Tickets Late on Weekends
The trick to avoiding the worst time to buy airline tickets is to think about what the most common time to buy tickets would be. That would most likely be on a day everyone has off, during a time that everyone is awake. Think Saturday and Sunday between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.
RatePunk CEO Justin Albertynas said these are going to be your worst times to purchase a flight.
“This is when many people have more free time to browse for flights, which can drive up demand and subsequently increase prices,” he said. “Additionally, booking last-minute flights, typically within two weeks of your travel date, can result in significantly higher fares due to limited availability and higher demand from business travelers or those with urgent travel needs.”
Don’t Book Last Minute
You might have heard you can get a great deal if you wait until the very last minute to buy a flight, but that’s not always the case and it can end up costing you more money and stress.
“Waiting until the last minute to book a flight is not the best way to save,” said Neil Wertheimer, deputy editor of AARP Bulletin and AARP The Magazine. “Data shows that by booking domestic air travel 28 to 35 days before departure, you’ll save an average of 10% compared with travelers who wait until two weeks or less before flying.”
Aim for Midday to Afternoon on Tuesdays
Most experts we spoke with agreed that Tuesday is the golden day to buy airline tickets.
“The best time to buy airline tickets is generally on Tuesday afternoons,” said Shreya Patel, the marketing manager at Lowest Flight Fares.
Albertynas agrees, saying the airlines typically all work in a similar way. “Research suggests that the best time to purchase airline tickets is generally on Tuesdays around 3 p.m. Eastern Time. This is because airlines often release new fare sales on Monday evenings, and by Tuesday afternoon, competing airlines have matched these prices, creating a window of opportunity for travelers to snag lower fares.”
Know That Prices Fluctuate
Even with these guidelines, know that other factors can affect how much airline tickets cost.
“It’s important to note that airfares fluctuate constantly due to various factors such as demand, seat availability and airline sales,” Patel said. “Hence, there is no foolproof formula for getting the cheapest tickets.”
She said there are a couple of ways to make sure you’re always getting the best price.
“It’s essential to stay vigilant, set fare alerts and compare prices on different airlines and travel websites,” she said. “You can also go incognito to search for flights as many sites follow your search patterns through cookies and IP addresses. And if you have a history of searching flights of the same pattern, the prices shown might be higher.”
Set Up Alerts
As Patel said, if you really want the best price, you’re going to have to take matters into your own hands. Sites like Going.com take data from both software and human flight searchers to deliver the best prices available.
There is a catch: You have to be a subscriber to get the most information. You can have a limited membership for free, but you’ll get economy deals from just five airports. For $49 a year, you can follow up to 10 airports and get more deals. For $199 a year, you get all fares across the country, plus deals in premium economy, business class and first class.
You also can always search discount travel sites like Kayak, Priceline and Expedia, which cost nothing to use.