Melanie has been interested in cultures, languages, and travel since her youth. She also runs a YouTube channel: The Curious Coder.
Airline ticket prices often change, so shopping for airfare can be very frustrating.
You might be left wondering -- when is the best time to buy airline tickets -- and how can I save money on airfare?
Chances are, you have better things to do than sitting at your computer for hours, playing guess and check to find what makes airfare cheaper and what makes it more expensive.
Luckily, there are several quick tips that you can follow that are proven to save money. Many travelers have been collaborating for years, sharing what has and hasn't worked for them, in order to create a list of ways to save money -- tips that bust the airline industry secrets. With these tips, you can spend more time doing what you love, and less time worrying about the cost of airfare.
The Best Time to Buy Airline Tickets
One nugget of information you may not know is that it's actually more expensive to purchase airfare on some days versus others. This may seem strange, but there's a reason for it. When is the most convenient time for an American to sit down at their computer and buy an airline ticket? My guess is Saturday. This is probably why Saturday is the MOST expensive day to purchase an airline ticket. This is because many people are buying tickets at the same time, which drives up the price of tickets.
Ticket prices are discounted early in the week, making Tuesday at 3 PM Eastern Standard Time the best time to buy. As the week wears on, the remaining seats on the plane go up in price as more and more people are buying.
The Best Time to Fly
If you've ever been subject to blackout dates or departure limitations, you may have noticed that the days that you are allowed to fly are on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or a Saturday. You would think that therefore a Saturday would be a cheap day to fly, but this is not always the case. In reality, Saturday has the least amount of seats available because this is the day the least amount of planes fly out.
While Saturday can have a few surprisingly affordable flights, generally it's an expensive day to fly. This leaves Tuesday and Wednesday. Either of these days are affordable, but if you are absolutely looking for the cheapest day to fly, put your money on Wednesday as slightly more flights go out on Wednesday than Tuesday.
More Ways to Save on Airline Tickets
If you will be traveling with multiple people in your party, the airlines will charge you the same price for your tickets, even if one of the seats on the plane is actually marked at a lower price. For example, you will be traveling with two friends (three total tickets) and there is one seat left on the plane at the price of $250, the remaining seats are priced at $400. If you buy all three tickets at once, you will pay $400 for each ticket. You will not be offered the $250 ticket price at all.
A way to get around this is to purchase the tickets one at a time in order to ensure you get the best prices. You may not all be seated together, but you can save hundreds of dollars by doing this. Also, you may luck out and be able to trade seats with other willing passengers.
Check multiple websites for ticketing information. The pricing can vary site to site. It's also a good idea to check the website for the actual airlines, while they are often more expensive, sometimes you can luck out. Also, there are some airlines such as Southwest who don't sell their tickets to discount travel sites. Southwest is one of the cheapest airlines, so it's definitely worth it to check out their ticket prices.
If you are flexible with your travel dates, you've got the upper hand. Keep an eye out for last minute deals on airfare. Generally speaking, however, purchasing a ticket shortly before takeoff is the most expensive way to fly. However, purchasing airline tickets six months ahead of time is a bad idea too.
Airlines start discounting domestic ticket prices about three months before the travel date, so the best time to buy airline tickets is around this time.
Steve on April 17, 2012:
Well what about if the airline did not sell a couple or one seat before it takes off would I would they would sell that seat at possible 50 percet discont if they could sell that one person then to have it go empt
Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on June 09, 2011:
I didn't know that this made a difference in cost. Thanks. I'll be linking this to my airline hub.
Alfreta Sailor from Southern California on February 02, 2011:
Love it, need it, thanks. Very good advice, voted up.
H P Roychoudhury from Guwahati, India on January 25, 2011:
It is definitely good to buy low cost ticket much in advance. But before doing that one must fix the time and place keeping the question of security in mind. Money is not precious than life.
Melanie Shebel (author) from Midwest, USA on January 24, 2011:
Oh yeah, I definitely agree. Some people will try to buy tickets like two weeks before their travel dates and they really pay some hefty prices for doing so.
Jasnav on January 24, 2011:
Definitely the best time to buy is about a month to two months before the date of travel, as both before and after this time tickets tend to get more expensive.
Hello, hello, from London, UK on January 24, 2011: