With the daily grind of work and school settling back in for many of us, the post-holiday blues are in full swing. Of course, we're all starting to fantasize about our dream getaways and wondering: when is the cheapest time to buy airline tickets, anyway? Lucky for us, there's been a considerable amount of research done on this topic. Most recently, reports from Hopper.com indicate that in January 2016 (that is to say, right now, you guys) airline prices will hit the lowest they've been in three years.
After you pool your holiday money, your first instinct is likely to determine where, exactly, it is that you'd like to go. If you're single and wondering where to travel alone, remember that solo travel opens up your entire agenda, so you can do exactly what you want, whenever you want, and that can be a very liberating experience. That said, if you're a woman traveling alone, it's important to do your research on what countries are the most and least safe for women travelers, and what precautions you should take before arriving.
Once you have a destination in mind, your next step is probably going to be actually sitting down and booking a ticket. But wait! Which day of the week offers you the best deal? Morning or night? Do prices go higher or lower if you're scrolling through options on a weekend? Stress not: the research juries are in, and these are some of their tips.
1. Get Up Really, Really Early on Wednesday
For a long time, it appeared that Tuesday was the cheapest day to buy airline tickets. Supposedly, this rumor began because airlines often announced deals on Monday night and people scrambled to buy tickets on Tuesday afternoons. However, Peter Greensberg of CBS suggests Wednesday around 1 am is actually the best time to book your flight. The catch? His approach only applies if you're willing to actually call and talk to an airline representative, which, if you're a Millennial, is probably going to put you off from the deal.
2. Book 21 Days Ahead of Time
A 2012 report from Kayak found that the cheapest flights were available 21 days prior to your flight departure. The key here, though, is that this only applies to domestic flights. If you're flying internationally, Kayak found the cheapest time to buy tickets was actually 34 days before take-off. How did they gather these numbers? Researchers compiled and analyzed one year's worth of search results which averaged 100 million flight searches per month.
Some data does oppose these numbers, however. Number crunchers over at momondo actually found that booking your flight 53 days ahead of time yields you the cheapest result. Interestingly, they found that "booking at this specific date in advance of departure can save up to 26 percent" — which, in my opinion, is a pretty significant deal. If you plan early, definitely give that a shot.
3. Be Really, Really Flexible
I know that this is the advice no one wants to hear, but to save serious money on your flights, you may need to be flexible on when exactly you're traveling. Research shows that the cheapest days to fly tend to be Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday. Of course, you're probably wondering what the most expensive days to fly are. Unfortunately, they're also the most convenient travel days for many people: Friday and Sunday. Popular things tend to be more expensive! It's a bummer, but if you plan ahead, and can be flexible on your travel days, it should save you some serious cash to avoid Friday and Sunday travel.
Another potential bummer, but money saver, is to figure out the cheapest time of day to fly. Most research on this topic is in agreement: red-eye flights are the least expensive across the board. From there, morning flights are the cheapest, as are flights which leave in the evening. Flights that operate mid-day (you know, the time when most people actually want to travel) are the more expensive.
All in all, there are definitely cheap flights and good deals to be found, but they don't come easily. If you're organizing a trip, really plan all of the details. Determine what you're willing to bend on (getting up at 3 a.m. for a flight isn't that bad, right?) and what you're not willing to miss out on (if your best friend's birthday is on a Friday evening, you may be flying out on Friday afternoon). Flying can be stressful for a lot of people, but planning ahead can help you avoid at least some of the financial headache.