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Flight Bookings: Yes, There is a Right Time to Get That Deal

I haven't gone public with this, but I take on very few flight-only bookings these days. After the pandemic, I am burned the heck OUT! The number of hours burned on the phone trying to get answers; ultra restrictive, non-flexible fares making it impossible to get my guests what they needed; cancellations and delays, better sale prices directly with the airline and little to no compensation for us as travel professionals - There are very few airlines left who I work in partnership with. Now, in saying that, I have A LOT of flight knowledge to offer. Routing knowledge, fare class knowledge, and having visited 75+ countries, I definitely have my favourite airlines! And if you're booking a larger trip with me (a tour, cruise or any other additional component), I can most definitely get you there, but for a nominal fee.

This post is really for the DIY'ers. If you love the thrill of clicking around on Google Flights, or you're your own favourite travel advisor, this is for you! So without further ado, here are my top flight booking tips to help you get that golden deal.

1. Advance Booking Window

Generally, booking your flight tickets well in advance can lead to significant savings. For domestic flights, aim to book between one to three months before your departure. For international flights, the best window is usually two to eight months in advance. However, booking too early, especially over six months before your trip for domestic flights or more than eight months for international journeys, might mean you'll miss out on deals airlines offer closer to the date. Now if you're booking during ANY PEAK season including Christmas, Spring Break, Easter, and all major holidays here at home or within the country you're visiting, your best bet is booking as soon as possible.

2. The ‘Goldilocks’ Zone

Many studies have pinpointed what's often referred to as the "Goldilocks Zone" for booking flights—in other words, not too early and not too late. This tends to be around six weeks to three months before departure for domestic flights. During this period, prices are often at their most competitive as airlines try to fill seats. There is a quite a bit of data that supports this (including my professional experience), so you definitely want to keep an eye on this booking window.

3. Seasonal and Day-of-Week Trends

The time of year and even the day of the week can impact flight prices. For instance, traveling during off-peak seasons (late winter, spring, and late autumn) can result in cheaper fares compared to peak holiday periods. Furthermore, booking mid-week, particularly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, can often yield better deals than booking on weekends when demand is higher.

4. Time of Day Matters

Believe it or not, the time of day you book can also affect the price. Booking late at night or in the early morning hours might offer you slightly lower prices, as there's less traffic on booking sites, and airlines often release discounted seats during these off-peak hours.

5. Keep an Eye on Sales and Fare Alerts

Airlines frequently have sales and promotions that can lead to great deals on flights. Signing up for fare alerts from airlines or using price tracking tools on travel comparison websites can help you snag these offers. Being flexible with your travel dates and destinations increases your chances of finding a stellar deal when it pops up.

6. Utilizing Incognito Mode Does Not Make a Difference

You've probably been told by flight hackers that searching for flights in 'incognito mode' will result in lower pricing. This myth has been debunked many times. Yes, airlines and online travel agencies may be accessing your IP address to provide accurate and location-specific search results, but it's not to manipulate fare prices. If pricing is fluctuating between your searches, it's more likely because of dynamic pricing.

7. Flexibility is Key

Ultimately, flexibility is your best friend when seeking the best time to book flights. Being open to adjusting your travel dates, times, and even destinations can uncover savings. Fluctuations in flight pricing are influenced by a mix of factors including demand, competition, oil prices, and global events, making it somewhat unpredictable. Hence, while these tips can generally guide you towards better deals, the landscape of flight pricing always involves a bit of unpredictability and luck.

8. Stop Booking on Third Party Websites!

If I could holler this from the mountaintops of my hometown, I would! I could create an entire podcast series based on horror stories from past guests who have dealt with various third party shenanigans. I'm not going to name names, but when you snag that ultra good deal, it's probably way too good to be true. You probably just booked the most restrictive, non-refundable, and non-changeable fare. That means if you missed a letter in your last name when when you were up til the wee hours scrolling for deals, you may have to kiss those funds goodbye and start over! Airlines have become far less forgiving in the post-Covid era. Either book with a travel professional for a fee, or book directly on the airline's website and make sur you book a flexible fare.

In summary, while there is a 'best time' to book flights based on historical data and experts' insights, staying flexible, monitoring prices, and being ready to book when you find a good deal are essential strategies for snagging those coveted low fares. I realize that's a tall-ask for most of us! As a mom to school-age kiddo, trust me, I empathize. But if you can swing a few days on either side of your search, or better yet, can travel to your chosen destination during shoulder or off season, all of this will likely result in much lower flight fares.



Jordana Manchester

Welcome to my passion project - the Storied Lands travel blog. Gather here for trip inspiration, stories, destination spotlights,  helpful tips, and thought-provoking discussions about important issues throughout the travel and tourism industry.

Posts on the Storied Lands Travel Blog may contain affiliate links which may result in a small commission generated from clicks that result in a purchase. Posts that contain such links will always disclose as such at the beginning of the post.

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