If you’re like me, you might spend a few weeks regularly comparing flight costs before actually booking a trip. If I just wait another few days, maybe this will be cheaper, you might tell yourself. Well, what if the cost goes up tomorrow? you ask next. The game of trying to find the best deal on airfare can be time-consuming, frustrating, and of course, expensive.
To make the game a bit easier to win, online travel company CheapAir spent 2014 amassing an arsenal of data to determine when travelers can secure the most affordable tickets. After collecting 1.5 billion airfares and watching nearly 5 million trips in 15,000 domestic markets, here’s the number: 47 days. On average, those 5 million trips were the cheapest when travelers purchased tickets just under 7 weeks prior to the departure date.
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47 Days Is A Suggestion — Not A Definitive Solution
Of course, CheapAir highlights that 47 days is by no means a magic number. Flight costs are constantly changing based on a wide range of variables. Still, the data does show that a not-too-early, not-too-late approach can serve travelers well. It’s no surprise that airlines typically charge more for last-minute bookings. However, having your credit card ready to go as soon as the flight is available for sale won’t necessarily pay off, either.
“On average, domestic flights open up for sale about $50 higher than their ultimate lowest price - and they typically stay that way for many months,” a recent CheapAir blog post states.
No matter what cost you see on one day, chances are it’s going to look different later in the week. Airfare is always on the move. The CheapAir study shows that the lowest possible prices change an average of 70 times over the course of a 320-day period.
If you find yourself spending another few minutes plugging in destinations and travel dates into the boxes on a seemingly endless array of online travel booking sites, it may be best to save yourself headaches and follow this advice from CheapAir.
“Aim for a good deal, not the best deal,” the company says. “With 70 different fare changes on average for each trip, you have to get very lucky to book your flight at their absolute rock bottom. So don’t get too caught up in trying to squeeze a few extra dollars off your ticket price.”
Wondering what you’ll pay once you arrive at your destination? Check out “What Hotel Rates Will Look Like In 2015.”