Raise your hand if you've ever stayed up late on a Tuesday in hopes of booking a cheaper flight. Okay, now lower your hand, and never do it again. Because the truth is that almost every tip and trick you've heard about the best day to book flights is wrong.
That old Tuesday trope is one of countless outdated (or just flat-out wrong) myths that continue to circulate to this day. Here's the truth: The best day to book flights is whenever you find a cheap deal. And cheap flights can pop up at any hour, every day of the week. It's less about the day, and more about using the right tools – and having the right mindset – to find a great deal.
We'll show you how it works, and why there's no magic day to find cheap flights.
The Best Day to Book Flights Is…
You've heard it from friends and coworkers. It's widely accepted as gospel: “The cheapest day to book flights is on Tuesdays.”
But it's time to set the record straight: It's just not true.
Yes, you can find cheap flights on Tuesdays. But you might get a better deal on a Wednesday. Or Thursday. Or any other day of the week.
According to Expedia, the best day of the week to buy tickets, in other words the cheapest day of the week to book flights is Sunday. Plane tickets purchased on Sundays can be up to 36% cheaper just based on the data. However, keep in mind that this is purely deducted from a statistical analysis – this doesn't necessarily make booking on Sundays a true or the wisest rule of thumb.
It's a convenient but outdated myth that ignores the fact that airfare pricing is constantly changing. Airlines tweak their pricing by the hour to try to win over more customers and undercut their competitors. So don't assume you're getting the best deal on your flights just because you're booking on a Tuesday night.
Take it from us: Our team of flight deal analysts spends all day, every day searching for the cheapest fares to send to Thrifty Traveler Premium members. There are no best days to book flights – best fares and sales don't just happen on only one day of the week. In fact, we find cheap flights, mistake fares, and unadvertised award sales every single day of the year.
One of the craziest mistake fares we found in the past year? Atlanta to Chile – nonstop and roundtrip – for just $63. And we found it on a Thursday at 10 a.m.
That's just one example of literally thousands over our years of finding flight deals. But it's obvious: There is no single best day to book flights. So please, we beg you … purge that from your memories.
And while we're on the topic of travel myths, there's one more myth we need to clear up…
Stop clearing your cookies when you're shopping for flights. Seriously: Clearing your cookies or searching incognito for flights won't make cheaper flights magically appear. This is another travel myth about booking flights that has long been rampant in the travel world. It's time to put this myth to rest.
Other sites and online travel agencies may do it, but airlines aren't manipulating airfare pricing based on if you search a flight two or three or 13 times. Our team searches hundreds of routes daily. If airlines were playing these tricks with cookies, we'd never be able to find a flight deal!
The Best Day to Travel for Cheap Flights
This isn't to say timing it right isn't important. But it's not about when you buy airline tickets: It's more about when you actually get on the plane.
That means flying on off-peak days: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays are often much cheaper days to fly. Shifting your departure and return dates by just a day or two can save you hundreds of dollars. So stretch that weekend into a slightly longer weekend and save on flights.
Avoiding peak travel seasons is key, too. Airfare during the middle of summer is typically much more expensive – and the same goes for major holidays. Traveling during shoulder seasons – from mid-April through early June and late August through early October – is the key to more savings. If you can travel in the fall or winter instead, the savings can grow.
Read more on the cheapest days to fly and travel in 2022!
The Best Time to Book Flights
It really comes down to this: The best time to book is when you find a cheap flight! The best flight deals don't last long, so when you see the deal, book the deal.
Worried about jumping the gun before consulting with your friend or partner or asking for time off? Don't worry – that's what the free 24-hour cancellation policy is for. Any flight to, from, or within the U.S. booked directly with the airline can be canceled for a full refund within 24 hours of booking.
Thrifty Tip: Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, airlines implemented a flexible policy that benefits travelers: Most major airlines are letting travelers change or cancel their flights for free – so long as you don't buy the cheapest basic economy fares. That means if you change your mind later, you can simply change your flight or cancel it for a voucher.
If you don't have the time to commit to searching for cheap fares frequently, we've got you covered. Get instant alerts to the hottest domestic and international flight deals, mistake fares, and award sales we find with our Thrifty Traveler Premium service. We find flight deals seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we're already seeing deals for travel for summer 2022 … and as far out as winter 2023!
Want to know when we find flight deals from your home airport? Join Thrifty Traveler Premium
But when you are shopping on your own, it's important that you're using the best search engine possible. And there's one tool that stands above the rest.
The No. 1 Tool You Should Use to Search
If you're searching for cheap fares with online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia, Kayak, and Priceline, it's time to rethink the way you search. OTAs purchase flights from the airlines to sell on their site – sometimes at a discount, and other times at a markup. You can't always count on big savings through these sites.
That's why you should start each and every search with Google Flights. Google's search tool pulls flight pricing from nearly every airline, giving you the most up-to-date pricing. You can easily set filters, browse the calendar for the cheapest dates to travel, and search the world map for the cheapest destinations from your airport. Once you've found the perfect cheap flight for you, Google Flights redirects you to book directly with the airline.
Google Flights is user-friendly and houses some of our favorite tools and filters for getting the best flight deal. Here are a few you should know about:
- Get Google Flights price alerts on your travel dates when the flights you're eyeing go up (or down) in price
- Not sure where you want to go? Use Google Flights Explore to see flight prices worldwide from your airport, helping you find the cheapest destination by letting you explore what's available
- Search to (or from) multiple cities to find the cheapest fares in your area
You can always compare the flights you find through Google Flights against your other favorite flight search engine like Expedia, Orbitz, Skyscanner, or others. But with all the uncertainty around coronavirus, now more than ever we recommend booking directly with the airline rather than with online travel agencies. You'll save yourself a headache if your travel plans change down the road.
The Best Day to Book Flights: Domestic vs. International Flights
Now, you know that there's no specific day or time flight deals happen. But there are best practices when it comes to timing your searches.
Here's the key: Avoid booking within 30-45 days before your flight. Some airlines offer decent flight prices the in the weeks leading up to departure, but these are few and far between.
In general, and especially pre-pandemic, airlines hike prices for last-minute flights. They assume only business travelers and travelers who need to be somewhere soon are that buy airline tickets last-minute. Airlines know these travelers will pay whatever it takes to get there. And trust us, you don't want to get stuck in that position a few weeks before a trip.
Never bank on getting a last-second fare. Instead, we recommend booking your flight at least 45 days to 2 months before a domestic trip. For international flights, give yourself even more time: start looking at flight prices at least 2-6 months beforehand. These general rules of thumb will help make sure you're not paying too much.
You can search for and book flights up to 11 months in advance. Start looking early, watch the price fluctuations and book when prices are low.
And remember: Start your travel planning by booking the cheap flight first on the dates that are cheapest to travel. Once you have the cheap flight booked, you can plan lodging, activities, and the rest of your trip. Not following the Flight First Rule is the #1 mistake that travelers make.
When to Book Holiday Flights
You're not seeing things: Flights during the holidays are almost always more expensive. Flying mid-December to mid-January will cost you. Thanksgiving flights can be tough on your budget, too.
While we do still find flight deals over these dates, it’s best to avoid peak holiday travel and try to move your flights to early December or later in January. It'll save you hundreds.
But we know that sometimes, travel during these times is unavoidable. If that's the case, remember these tips:
- Use Google Flights to search for the cheapest dates to travel
- Fly on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Saturdays
- Set a Google Flights Price Alert
- Start searching several months ahead of time
One way to get around paying for a peak holiday flight is to use points or miles to book your flight. Book as early as possible and you should be able to snag a flight for a normal amount of points. Get started with points and miles, and take your next holiday flight for free.
Read: 10 Tips to Find Cheap Flights
What's Changed During COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended travel in many ways … including when flights are cheapest. As business travelers worked remote and travel slowly comes back, airlines had to change up their strategy.
In normal times, booking last-minute flights meant you'd pay twice or triple the price. But airlines changed their tune, slashing last-minute flight prices in an effort to entice travelers. That has meant an unprecedented trend of crazy cheap fares just a week (or less) before departure.
It's unclear how long this will last, but one thing is for sure: If you have the flexibility to travel soon, you might be able to find a crazy good deal to make it happen.
It's time to let go of the myth that Tuesdays – or any day – are the key to finding cheap flights. There is no ironclad best day to book flights.
The truth is that you can find an amazing flight deal on any day of the week. And when you do, you should book it.
We promise this mindset will change the way you book travel … for good.
I have status with United and want only united or united partner flights? I love the idea of getting notified but can I limit the airlines?
Hi Patricia! We do not yet have a feature to limit the airlines, but you can easily see which airline is associated with deal and only book United flight deals 🙂
I’m targetting flights from Kuala Lumpur to Glasgow on middle September. That’s the shoulder season, right? Do You it will be cheaper by next weekend? What’s your opinion?
Hi Franklin! For this specific route, we’d recommend using Google Flights to search and price alerts to book when fares are cheapest: https://thriftytraveler.com/guides/google-flights/#Set_Alerts_to_Track_Price_Changes_on_Google_Flights
How do 2 planes leave Las Vegas at the same time/same airline both say 4 hr 45min to the destination but one of them lands an hour later. The price is $90 difference. What am I missing? I don’t want to make a mistake in booking my trip.
Hi, very informative article. We’re planning a trip to Montego Bay Jamaica on mid August from the Bay Area. From there to DC area before returning home. Should I look at 3 one way fares?
That’s not true. Anyone is welcome to try searching a few times and see what happens. I just did it now and the price rose from 150 to 250 euros, then i searched with a VPN and surprise surprise, the price went down again.
You can promote your services without being misleading.
So the best day based on oh years of data and analysis is wrong because you *may* find a cheaper flight another time. Just because you find an outlier or accidental price doesn’t discredit actual studies.
There is not a single study that has been published in the last 10+ years about a best day to book flights that holds any water. It is outdated.
It’s not about promoting our service. It’s about sharing our expertise and knowledge of how flight pricing works as a result of that service.