A Travel Expert Reveals Exactly How Far In Advance You Should Be Booking A Plane Ticket

by Kaitlyn Wylde
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A lot of people have theories about when the best time to book a plane ticket is. Some people believe in a certain day of the week, some people believe in the last minute, other people believe in the middle of the night. It can be difficult to get to the bottom of how many days in advance you should book a plane ticket — because everyone can't be right, and everyone can't be wrong. There has to be some rhyme or reason to airfare booking theories, and the people who are going to have the most intel about this are the people who book the most flights.

When it comes to getting a good deal, airlines aren't your friends. They're not interested in helping you get the cheapest ticket price, they're interested in making money. So the best advice to take when it comes to saving money, is someone on the other end of the business, who is familiar with the trends and patterns of airfare. Personally, it seems like every time I look at ticket prices, they get higher. The closer I get to the travel date, the more expensive the tickets get, so I get nervous and book... only to sometimes find out that they got cheaper, and other times find out that they got more expensive. So what gives?

Bustle talked to Liana Corwin at Hopper to get the scoop. According to Corwin, the mystical flight theory is really more of a computer algorithm. "Flight prices for the most part are determined by the airlines’ extremely sophisticated revenue manage software. Occasionally a human will step in when sales need to be encouraged on a particular flight, and that’s really when you’ll see things like flash sales start to happen," she says.

That said, there is a general consensus on when to book, Corwin says, and it depends on whether you're flying on a holiday, and whether you're flying to a vacation hotspot. Though no matter when you plan to travel, Corwin suggests tracking that particular flight on multiple apps, she does have some keen advice for each specific travel scenario, too:

Holiday Travel

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A good general rule of thumb is to book your flights about four to five weeks in advance for most holidays that fall on a three-day weekend. For Christmas, New Year's, and the other big holidays, a longer window of about two months is ideal. You never want to book out farther than that, as ticket prices will not be originally listed at their lowest price. For instance, Corwin never suggests booking tickets 11 months in advance as they will definitely drop over time.

Vacation Hotspot

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Another thing to consider is the destination you’re traveling to. If you're going somewhere popular, but heavily traversed like New York or Washington DC, you should get your tickets one month prior to departure. But if you're going to a vacation hot spot like Maui or Miami or the Caribbean, Corwin says, you'll want to get your tickets at least three months in advance to get the best deal.

At the end of the day, there's really no true hard and fast theory about when the best time to book a plane ticket is. The best thing you can do is keep an eye on fares, and try to book within a suitable window of time.