It might not feel like it, but spring is almost here, which means that it's about time for you to plan some warmer weather vacations. Whether you're going away for spring break or just taking a little trip to escape for a bit, there are tons of options available out there. Last-minute trips can be exciting to plan, but if you're flying somewhere, almost everyone knows that you're better off planning in advance. And if you've already picked a destination, you're probably wondering how early you should book a flight for spring vacation.
Spring is a very popular time to travel, which means that airfare is probably going to increase — especially if you're going during a spring break week or around the Easter or Passover holidays. When it comes to getting inexpensive tickets, you've probably heard conflicting advice. Some people say you should book tickets months in advance, as early as possible. Others swear by waiting until the very last minute for a good deal. So what's the actual ideal time?
One study from 2016 found that, on average, 54 days before takeoff is when flights within the continental U.S. are at their absolute lowest price. Grab a calendar and do the math: If you don't make that exact mark, there's a "prime booking window" for the lowest prices, which is between 105 to 21 days before your trip. That's a pretty big window, which is nice.
The research, done by CheapAir, analyzed 2.9 million airline trips to find that info. They also found that, on average, a ticket cost about $150 more when booked within two weeks before you leave - so definitely don't wait until the last minute to get your tickets, whether you're flying domestic or international.
However, there's a catch with spring traveling. CheapAir says that if you're going somewhere very popular during a peak time (they specifically mention spring break), you should book well before that prime booking window. Airlines will be hard-pressed to offer great deals when they know people are going to book regardless, so booking earlier is definitely your best bet.
How do you know if you're traveling during peak time? The Washington Post says that high season for airline tickets begins the the last week of April and ends through the last weekend of August. If that lines up with your vacation, book as soon as you can, and you'll be better off.
There are other ways to keep your airfare affordable when traveling during the spring months. Flying domestic is usually going to be cheaper than flying international, so you should try to plan a trip in the U.S. instead of a different country if you want to keep things on the cheaper side. Hopper also says that you should be looking for nonstop flights — despite the idea that adding stops lowers the price, that's actually not always true.
Another way to save money on airfare is to be flexible with when you can leave. Flying on a weekend is going to be more expensive than flying midweek, so if you can manage to leave on a Tuesday or Wednesday, you'll definitely find better prices. Lastly, you can avoid extra fees by doing things like waiting to get a seat until the day of your flight and only taking a carry-on instead of checking a bag (most airlines charge a fee for even one checked bag).
The moral of the story is this: if you plan on going away in April, May, or June, you definitely want to start looking into flight prices now. You might even want to just go for it and book. You know what they say: the early bird gets the worm. Or, in this case, the best airfare prices.