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When is the Best Time to Purchase Cheap Airfare?

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We all love to travel to Disney World but for a large majority of us we’re too far away which means we have to get on a plane to get there. When you purchase your flights can have a large impact on how much you end up paying. Those flight costs can really add up, especially for those trips which consist of entire family and not just one person. I know we all stress about how can you make sure that you are getting the best deal on your flights.

When you purchase your flights can have a huge impact on the price that you pay.  The person sitting next to you on your flight could have paid $100 more or $100 less than you depending on many variables.  Airline fares are fluid, meaning that they are constantly being updated by the minute based on searches for a particular flight, how full it is, how far in advance you are looking plus many other factors.

Today let’s dive into the main question many people have: when is the best time to book your flights?

I’m going to let you know up front that there is no exact date/time that will be best because each airline & destination has different variables involve but we’ll take a look at some guidelines to adhere to when searching for your flights.

Like many things, these tips are based on research which may change in the future due to new statistics becoming available among other factors, such as the economy. The main focus for this post will be on domestic travel to Orlando.

The Worst Times to Fly

It can seem that the prices for airline tickets are constantly changing without any pattern or logical reason. However, there are a few times when it is best to avoid flying if you can.

Last Minute
There appears to be a belief out there that if you wait until the very last minute to book a flight there will be a dramatic reduction in the price of the ticket.  I’ve actually tried this before and can tell you that it doesn’t work!

When to buy flights

Last Minute Flights Are Not Cheap!

The data from the study backs that up – the absolute worst time to book a flight was 1 day out, followed by 2 days out, followed by 3 days out and so on up to about 13 days out.

Fridays & Sundays
Everyone loves a quick two-day getaway, as well as taking off for the weekend. Due to the high amount of flyers, weekend (mainly Friday & Sunday) rates are generally higher than, for example, mid-week rates.

Many people like to be at their destinations on Saturdays so if you can fly in/out on a Saturday you can generally find better rates.

Without a doubt, holidays (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Spring Break, etc.), are one of the most stressful times to travel. They are also one of the most expensive times to travel.

If you are planning to head for warmer Orlando during the winter months or just going to see grandma for Christmas, this is one time where you should NEVER, I repeat NEVER, buy your tickets at the last minute.

Prices can vary greatly depending on the date

Prices can vary greatly depending on the date

In this situation, buying your tickets at the last minute will result in paying extraordinarily high prices and increase the likelihood that there will not be any seats open to purchase. Some recent studies have shown that for high-traffic, holiday travel it may be best to purchase your tickets up to an entire year in advance.

Peak Travel Times
Aside from weekends and holidays, certain times of the year are considered peak travel times. Case in point, summer. Summer is a peak travel time for many reasons (vacations, holidays, time off from work, etc.), this is especially true for Orlando flights as summertime is one of the busiest seasons for Disney.  

The Best Time to Purchase Flights for Cheap Airfare did an excellent study of the best times to book flights, they analyzed over 4.1 million trips & fares to determine when those trips ticket prices were the lowest.  The booking window was 320 days to 1 day in advance for each of those 4.1 million trips which resulted in 1.3 billion fares that were examined – talk about a number crunch!

Cheap Airfares

Based on all of that data & research – the one number that came out as the “best day” to book airfare was on average 54 days in advance or 7.5 weeks out on average.  That’s just a general guideline – there are many more variables to take into account from their study.

Based off all of the data here the best general guidelines to follow when searching for airfare.

  • The best booking window is from 29-104 days out from your travel date.
  • Flying in/out on Tuesdays – Thursdays generally tend to have cheaper rates than most other days of the week.
  • If you intend to travel during peak travel times (holidays, summer), then you may need to consider booking your flight further in advance than you normally would otherwise.
  • If you know that you are going to be traveling far enough in advance, then you should watch flight fares on a regular basis starting about 100 days out to get a good idea of what ‘good’ rates are. Once you find one that you are comfortable with, jump on it as it is likely to change soon.
  • Booking too far in advance (more than 100 days out) will generally lead to more expensive airfares.
  • Consider flying out of other nearby airports which can sometimes have much lower fares.  If you live in the New York area you have many different airport options (JFK, Newark, LaGuardia) plus Philadelphia and Atlantic City airports are not too long of a drive away either.
  • Booking your flight too early is still better than booking it too late and you will still save money.

Flight Price Tracking Tools

Many of the flight aggregation sites like and AirFareWatchDog provide you with fare history when doing your searches.  This information is highly valuable in helping you track down where you currently are with a particular fare – on the high side or low side? also gives you advice on when you should purchase your flights and the confidence it has on where the price will go.


The only downside to Kayak and many of the other flight search sites is that they do not include Southwest flights so for those you will have to check on

One other feature that I use a lot on Kayak is the price alert emails.  Kayak will send you email updates on a daily or weekly basis of changes in fares.  This way you can be alerted to price changes right away and jump on them if they were to drop. 


I hope these tips have offered a tiny bit of insight into determining how you can get the best rates for booking your flight. Considering the complex systems that airline computer booking systems use, finding better rates can quickly become a very involved and tedious project.

The best possible advice that I can provide overall is to start looking into it early, testing different date combinations to finding the best rates, and grab one that is suitable for your budget when you find it.

What questions do you have about finding the best flight prices?

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