Timing is everything: So, when is the best time to buy an airline flight ticket? It’s all too easy to put all your focus on where to go, what to do, and how to get there when planning a trip while forgetting that scheduling is also vital – the less you keep calendars and flight schedules in mind, the more you’re going to pay out of pocket. Luckily, all it takes to make travel simpler and more cost effective is a little bit more up-front planning and research. Wondering when the best time is to buy a flight ticket on your favorite airline? Just check out the following hints, tips, and suggestions to get the inside scoop.
The red-eye flight from Los Angeles to New York is always ridiculously crowded and more expensive, yet the flight from Des Moines to Little Rock is much more casual and value-priced. You want to factor in the popularity of where you are leaving from and where you are headed when making a purchase – and determine if it’s cheaper to take a shuttle or Uber/Lyft from another airport nearby. Demand directly affects ticket availability, too: The more popular the flight, the earlier you’ll want to purchase lock in seat and get good deals. Apps like Hopper can help you monitor flight legs, times, and prices to make sure you get the best deal when deciding when is the best time to buy an airline flight ticket.
Reserve Your Seat
Straight cash or credit isn’t an issue. If you choose to use frequent traveler points or award miles though, while they can be money savers, you’ll have to plan ahead. In short, ticket availability depends upon the mercy of the carrier: Only a limited number of seats on an individual plane or train are set aside for frequent traveler points users. The remaining spots are reserved for cash buyers – so be sure to lock in early. Also note that prices may fluctuate, and will increase the closer you to get your travel date.
The best advice in any event is to hold a seat as soon as you’re sure you’re going to buy it. Many major airlines and some trains systems let you hold reservations free up to a week. It gives you an opportunity to check out other potential deals and, if necessary, get the money or points together to finish the purchase.
Traveling during high-traffic times? It can put a hamper on your ability to move and increase ticket prices significantly. Many are aware that ticket prices go up during holidays such as Christmas and Spring Break. But what about the big conference that just happens to be in New Orleans the same weekend as your trip? That not only affects the pricing of your ticket, but your ability to take in sights and sounds when you get there.
Before you decide on a destination, do a cursory check online to see if any major events or holidays are happening locally. It takes just minutes and can greatly impact how quickly you’ll want to move on a ticket (or not move at all!).
Reserve Free in Advance
As a rule, reserve any travel as soon as you know when you want to go, including any related activities. Aside from carriers, most travel portals allow for free cancellations up to a certain date. The free cancellation offer may require some slight added expense up-front, but it isn’t worth the potential pain of losing all your reservation money on a trip that can’t be changed.
For years the rule was to buy your ticket at least 14 days in advance, as airlines would bump the price up at the two-week point. Not anymore. In fact, you may be able to score a cheaper price very close to the desired date (that’s a little-known secret in knowing the best time to buy a ticket) depending on if there are open seats that the carrier needs to fill.
Look into buying one-way flights as well, which, believe it or not, can be cheaper than round-trip flights. Also, if you are interested in flying, but aren’t ready to buy yet, check in on the price weekly or use a trip alert and comparison service like SkyScanne or Kayakto monitor pricing and availability.
Unlike airplanes, Amtrak and other train carriers directly reward you for booking early. There are specifically outlined deals that usually require a 21-day or so advanced purchase.
Lastly, focus on traveling specific corridors, like the Mississippi or the California Coast, as they often have sales and discounts only for certain areas. The sale time has a direct effect on when you’ll want to buy a ticket. As you can see, the best time to buy a ticket when traveling can be impacted by many factors – but with a little resourcefulness and ingenuity, you can always get good deals.
Damon helps entrepreneurs make their mark without sacrificing themselves. He co-founded the #1 app Cuddlr and led it to acquisition while being caretaker of his first baby. Damon is an Inc. columnist and author of the best-selling The Bite-Sized Entrepreneur series . Get your free productivity guide at http://bit.ly/JoinDamon