Flexibility is key when looking for cheap flights. A few tweaks to your schedule can make all the difference. It’s a game of supply and demand—prices are cheaper when less people are flying and more seats need to be filled. This combined with knowing when airlines’ fares are at their lowest will help you score airfare deals.
Known as “dead zones,” there are certain periods of the year when it’s significantly cheaper to travel than others. Traditionally, the most costly times to travel during the year are holiday seasons and summertime. The other times of year are considered low season because many people do not travel during these times.
General dead zones periods include:
- Beginning of December, after Thanksgiving and before Christmas
- Nearly all of January, after the New Years’ traveling period
- Spring and Fall, minus the Spring Break traveling period in March/April
Then there are more geographic specific off-peak travel periods. These are often caused by seasonal weather patterns, such as hurricane season or cold weather. Most locations align with the dead zones above. However, for the South Pacific and South America it is cheaper to fly during their wintertime (which is reversed).
Cheapest Days + Time to Fly
The cheapest days to fly internationally are Tuesday through Thursday. Not surprisingly, Friday and Sunday are the most expensive days to travel. The cheapest times of day to fly are first thing in the morning or on the more elusive “red eyes.” The next cheapest times to fly are after lunch and dinnertime.
Best Time to Buy
According to a study done by the Airlines Reporting Corporation, buying tickets six weeks before you’re set to depart is the best time domestically. For international flights, three to five months is the golden zone. Too far in advance or last-minute can often result in much higher ticket prices.
Mid-week is the ideal timeframe to purchase tickets, as this is when airlines release discounted fares. The weekend is when airfare prices are the highest as the aforementioned discounted fares are often pulled on Thursday. I saw flights to Cyprus almost double in a day due to this reason alone.
Sometimes called the “hub and spoke model,” flying into a bigger city could save you hundreds of dollars, especially in regards to international flights. It is usually more expensive to fly non-stop to your destination. In Asia it is often cheaper to fly into the hubs of Bangkok, Singapore, or Kuala Lumpur, then take a low-cost carrier to your final destination. If you decide to delay your travel and stay an extra day or two at one of these locations, you can research Expedia for short term affordable accommodation.
Flexible Dates + Multiple Airports
The more flexible you are with your travel plans, the higher your chances are of scoring cheaper flights. Even a few days’ shift in your itinerary could result in a steep fare drop. Also, if you live or are landing near several airports, check prices for all of them!