How far in advance should you book your flight?

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If you’re the type of person who searches the internet high and low for the cheapest flight prices, you’re not alone. While earning bonuses from travel rewards credit cards is always the best option to score cheap fares, it can be hard to use miles & points every time you need to fly.

So, when you can’t use rewards, what are the best times to book flights? Is there one day a week that’s better than the others? How far in advance should you book a flight? How far in advance can you book a flight? Right here, we’ve answered all your questions and more, so you can score the best deal the next time you need to fly.

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Best time to book during 2021

If you’re planning to travel during 2021 or in early 2022, you’ll want to jump on your bookings now. As travel begins to open back up in the United States and as people start to get more comfortable with the idea of flying again, there’s likely to be a surge in travel bookings. This means flight prices will increase, and tickets will be scarce as more passengers try to book the same flights.

You can typically book flights and hotel stays up to a year in advance, and in this case, that’s probably your best bet. You can even book restaurant reservations or schedule activities to do on your trip a few months before your arrival in most destinations. After being in lockdown for so long, you won’t be the only person with the travel bug, so make all your plans as early as possible!

Best time to book your domestic travels

Most airlines release domestic flights around 330 days in advance of the departure date. But in a typical travel year, prices tend to be higher when these tickets first come out, which means you should wait a bit before you book. According to this CheapAir survey, the best time to book a domestic flight is 115 to 21 days in advance or four months to three weeks before the flight. Airfare during this timeframe will be within 5% of the ticket’s lowest price point.

While this is a pretty big timeframe, you can monitor flight prices via tools like Google flights’ price tracking tool. Once you see a good deal, hop on it, because prices will likely only go up after that low point!

Best time to book your international travels

International flights are typically released within the same timeframe as domestic flights, but they don’t follow the same rules. While domestic flight prices tend to be higher when they first come out, international flight prices are lowest when they’re first released.

You can book international flights almost a year in advance, so once you know you’ll be going on an international trip, book as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the higher the price will likely get, so booking early will save you both stress and money.

Best time to book using your points and miles rewards

For U.S. carriers, rewards seats will be released as far in advance as regular revenue tickets. Most international carriers also release their rewards seats around the same time. Still, some extend the booking window a little bit longer, like British Airways (354 days ahead), Air Canada (355 days ahead) and Singapore Krisflyer (355 days ahead). It’s essential to be aware of the release dates for international airlines when booking with points and miles because many domestic carriers partner with them, so you can transfer your rewards to an international carrier and get a better deal.

In most cases, it’s best to book reward travel seats as soon as the booking window opens. This is especially true if you’re looking to score a seat in a premium cabin because the number of seats is limited. Like booking for international flights, the longer you wait to use your points and miles, the more you’ll probably have to use in the end.

3 myths on the best time to book your travels

Let’s address these rumors once and for all. 

Buying flights on Tuesdays will get you the lowest price

According to CheapAir, the average low fare flight varies by only $1 based on the day of the week. This means that whether you purchase your flight on Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday or any other day, you’re pretty much going to get the same price within a given week. Flight prices vary over weeks and months, not over days of the week. 

Tracking a flight or searching for it multiple times will make its price increase for you specifically

No one has found evidence that airlines use cookies to track who is looking at flights or increase the price based on frequent searches. This myth can actually lead to you losing money because you’ll miss out on tracking and monitoring flight prices over time, which will reveal the lowest prices to you. Tracking prices helps, not hurts, your wallet so don’t listen to this crazy myth! 

A round-trip flight is always cheaper than two one-way tickets

While round trips can sometimes be cheaper, two one-way tickets are just as likely to be a better deal. Before you dismiss booking two one-way tickets, try checking out the price of two one-ways on the same airline and among different carriers. It is a little more work and research but sometimes you can pay significantly less by finding the best deal on two tickets instead of one.

Bottom line

Airfare is constantly changing and there isn’t a one size fits all formula. What we know for sure is that the booking window for both revenue and award tickets typically opens up about 330 days before the flight’s departure for U.S. carriers, and international carriers only vary from that standard by about 20 days. 

Once that window is open, it’s been suggested that it’s best to wait until at least four months before the flight to book domestic flights. But for international and reward travel, booking sooner is better. While there isn’t any magic date or time that is guaranteed to get you the best price on a flight, these tips will help you score a deal.

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Alexandra Maloney is a contributor for Million Mile Secrets where she covers points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel. She's worked as a writing consultant for the University of Richmond and is a features writer for The Collegian UR.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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