Best Times to Book a Flight

Posted 09/14/2010

Seasonality and economic changes can affect how much you spend on travel. Get the insider's look at the best times to travel on a budget.

Need to travel by air but want to save on airfare? Depending on several factors, you can save money either by booking your flight early or booking it late. This 565-word article discusses the cost-saving benefits of doing both, and gives examples of when it is best to book a flight early and when it is best to book a flight at the last minute.

The current economic crisis has caused prices of various commodities, from grocery items to mortgages, to steadily increase. Even airline tickets now cost considerably more than they cost only a couple of years ago. Because of the expensive airfare, many Americans think they have no choice but to forego trips and put vacationing on an indefinite hold. Quite the contrary, you can still go on that family vacation without having to spend too much on airfare. The trick is booking your flight at the right time.

There is actually an ongoing debate as to whether it is better to book a flight very early or to book at the last minute. Many travelers are convinced the earlier you book a flight, the better. On the other hand, there are also many frequent flyers who claim to have saved a good amount on airfare by waiting until the last minute to book their flight. So what is really the better option?

Booking early and booking at the last minute actually have their benefits. For instance, if you are flying alone and you are not very particular about seats and layovers, you can definitely get very good discounts by booking just a day before your planned departure, or even just a few hours before the scheduled flight. In general, the closer it is to the departure, the cheaper the tickets. In these economically tough times, airlines like it much better if all their flights are fully booked. In an effort to fill up all empty seats, they give the best discounts they can afford.

While the savings from last-minute tickets are definitely enticing, this is not a viable option for some people. For example, if you have a sizable travel party or if you are traveling with kids, you will need to book your flight way ahead of time. In this case, you may want to look for early bird discounts, which can also reduce your travel costs tremendously.

Early booking is also recommended if you are attending an important event (e.g., wedding or family reunion) or if you are traveling during peak season, such as during summer vacation, Thanksgiving holiday, or Christmas. It may be very hard to find last-minute bookings during these times, not only for an airline ticket but for hotel accommodations as well. Furthermore, airlines will usually take advantage of the influx of passengers during these times and actually increase the prices of the tickets rather than offer discounts.

Another way to maximize your savings on airfare is to observe the changes in ticket prices offered by any given airline. You will notice flights that leave during the middle of the week are priced much lower than those flights that depart on the weekend. For instance, flying on a Tuesday could mean a savings of $100 compared to flying on a Friday. You should also take the time to study various flight schedules. While direct flights are often preferred by most travelers in terms of comfort and convenience, you might realize that you can actually save a lot by booking flights with layovers.

There is no clear-cut answer as to which is the best time for booking your flight. You will need to consider a number of factors. The key is to have an open mind and look into as many options as possible.

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