These are the best — and worst — times to buy plane tickets if you’re trying to save money

Try to buy your tickets in the prime booking window.

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Try to buy your tickets in the prime booking window.
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Ekaterina Pokrovsky/Shutterstock

  • You can save money on your airfare, depending on when you buy your ticket.
  • On average, the best deals on domestic flights are available 70 days before takeoff.
  • The worst time to buy your ticket is zero to six days before takeoff.
  • However, booking too far in advance could also cost you more.

Are you in need of a vacation, but have a bank account that disagrees? With a bit of forethought, you don’t have to choose between a holiday and fiscal responsibility.

CheapAir.com analyzed over 917 million airfares and nearly 3 million individual trips in 8,000 markets to determine the best and worst times to buy plane tickets this year. Here are some of their findings.


Booking 169 to 319 days in advance will get you the best selection — but not the cheapest tickets.

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It pays to wait.
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Brooke Cagle/Unsplash

You’ll get the biggest selection of airlines and seats if you book 169 to 319 days in advance, but you’ll also pay $50 more per ticket on average.


Booking a flight 122 to 168 days in advance will have you spending about $20 more on average.

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Lock in dates with a good selection but pay a $20 premium.
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istock

Booking between 21 and 121 days in advance is the prime booking window.

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You want to book your flight 3 to 17 weeks in advance.
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l i g h t p o e t/Shutterstock

Fares tend to be within 5% of the lowest price when you book during this window.


You’re pushing your luck if you buy tickets 14 to 20 days before your flight …

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Don’t try this around the holidays.
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Universal Pictures

Fares begin to rise two to three weeks before any given flight, and popular flights will begin to book up. You definitely don’t want to try this around the holiday season.


but you’re playing with fire if you book your ticket 7 to 13 days before takeoff.

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Deals are a long shot.
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PixieMe/Shutterstock

Not only will you pay $35 more than the people who booked their flights way in advance (169 to 319 days before), but getting a good deal is a long shot.


Booking your flight zero to six days in advance is by far the worst option.

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Paying zero to six days in advance is expensive and stressful.
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Luke MacGregor/Reuters

CheapAir.com calls this the “Hail Mary” of booking flights, because you’ll end up paying an average of $208 more than you would during the prime booking window, 21 to 121 days in advance.


Additionally, this year, Wednesday is the cheapest day to fly.

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Travel on a Wednesday if you can.
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Shutterstock

Wednesday offers the cheapest flights this year, followed closely by Tuesday. Sunday is the most expensive day to fly and will end up costing you an average of $76 more than a Wednesday flight.


That said, the prime booking window depends on the season.

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Plan accordingly.
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Margo Brodowicz / Unsplash

It’s best to buy tickets 14 to 160 days in advance in summer, 21 to 110 days in advance in autumn and winter, and 46 to 122 days in advance in spring.

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