International Flights: When is the Best Time to Buy

July 23, 2020

by Rina Bernardo

Learn when is the best time to buy international flights

Traveling across the globe while trying to avoid breaking the bank? It’s possible with the right timing and proper planning on when to book a flight. Depending on your destination, the best time to book an international flight can vary from months to almost a year.

 

In general, the best time to buy international flights is around 120 to 160 days before departure. While this isn’t the case for every destination, this generally applies to destinations in Asia and Europe. When finding the cheapest days to fly, it’s important to take note of the seasonality of your chosen destination, as prices tend to spike during high season and holidays. If you are traveling with friends or family, you may want to book separately as well since tickets for groups tend to be more expensive.

 

If you are on the hunt for inexpensive plane tickets, read further and find out how you can score the best flight deal.

Learn when is the best time to buy international flights

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Best Time to Buy International Flights to Asia

 

Peak tourist season: From November to May
Low tourist season: June to late September
Best time to book a flight: One to three months before the travel date

 

The best time to buy airline tickets to Asia is usually one month to three months prior to your chosen date of departure. As the biggest continent filled with thousands of destinations, take time to research it before deciding where to fly out to. Asia also has dozens of budget airlines that offer services that are on par with major airlines. If you want the cheapest airline deals, you may consider those budget carriers like AirAsia, Easyjet, Scoot, Jetstar, and so on.

 

Before buying the flight deal to Asia, do extra research on local holidays of the country you’ll be visiting since airline companies tend to charge higher days before a holiday. If you want to know what month is the cheapest to fly to Japan, it’s usually from January to February after the New Year festivities. Airline tickets to Japan are also cheaper from the end of May to September. Unless you really want to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom, avoid flying to Japan from April to May since this is when plane tickets and hotel rooms are priced higher.

 

Best Time to Buy International Flights to Europe

 

Peak tourist season: Mid June to August
Low tourist season: November to March

Best time to book a flight: Four months to eight months before the travel date

 

The best time to buy international flights to Europe is four months to eight months prior to your departure date. In some cases, the best time to book a flight to Europe can be at 120 days from your travel date. If you want to find cheap plane tickets to any European city, it’s best to avoid booking summer when most foreign travelers visit.

 

You may also consider traveling during winter when fewer people visit. That way, you can see the ethereal Northern Lights in Lapland, visit the Christmas markets in Germany, or enjoy other winter getaways without the crowds.

 

Best Time to Buy International Flights to Middle East & Africa

 

Peak tourist season: December
Low tourist season: March to July
Best time to book a flight: Three months to nine months before the travel date

 

Cheap flight deals to the Middle East and Africa can be found within three months to nine months before departure. Usually, affordable tickets to the region can be found for the off-peak season like February while travelers tend to flock around July.

 

Please take note that there are regions where there are political unrest and tension. Because of this, airlines might offer plane tickets to these places for an affordable price. Depending on what your idea of an adventure is, it’s best to be aware of a country’s current affairs before being enticed with a well-priced ticket.

 

Best Time to Buy International Flights to Mexico and Central America

 

Peak tourist season: July to August, December
Low tourist season: September to October
Best time to book a flight: Two weeks to six months before the travel date

 

Similar to domestic flights, the best time to buy airline tickets to Mexico and Central America is within two weeks to six months before your departure. However, the average best time to book for the cheapest ticket is two months prior. The busiest (and most expensive) month to travel is in December, meanwhile the cheapest month to fly out is by September.

 

Best Time to Buy International Flights to South America

 

Peak tourist season: December to March
Low tourist season: January, June to October
Best time to book a flight: In order to get the best deals for your flight to South America, it is recommended to book a flight at least three months prior to your departure date. Ticket prices may occasionally drop due to current affairs and in some instances, due to outbreaks and diseases.

 

Like Africa and the Middle East, the cheapest month to visit South America in February, or in late January after the New Year events.

 

Best Time to Buy International Flights to the Caribbean

 

Peak tourist season: Mid-December to Mid-April
Low tourist season: June to November
Best time to book a flight: 11 months before the travel date

 

As one of the most popular tourist destinations, finding the best time to book a flight for the Caribbean may take a long time. Normally the best fares can be found for almost 11 months. The cheapest month to visit the best Caribbean beaches is in January. On the other hand, you may want to avoid traveling to the Caribbean in December when most travelers visit to escape the chills of winter.

 

Best Time to Buy International Flights to the South Pacific

 

Peak tourist season: July to August, December to February
Low tourist season: October to November
Best time to book a flight: Six months before the travel date

 

The best day to book flights to Australia, New Zealand, and other places in the South Pacific is anytime between six months prior to your chosen departure date. The cheapest season to fly to Australia is usually during their winter season, which is from the middle of April until the end of June.

Girl in airport

Photo by JESHOOTS-com on Pixabay

 

In addition to that, in 2018, CheapAir has conducted a study from 917,000,000 airfares covering more than 3,000 international markets and identified the best time to buy international flights per region. The study also included the so-called “prime booking window” per region which is the range when you are most likely to find the cheapest fares. Listed below are the results of their study:

 

Mexico/Central America

Prime Booking Window: 2 weeks to almost 6 months before departure
Best time to buy: About 70 days from your travel date
The average airfare: $489
Cheapest month to travel: September
Most expensive month to travel: December
Least expensive days of the week to fly: Tuesday and Wednesday

 

Caribbean

Prime Booking Window: 1 month to almost 11 months before departure
Best time to buy: About 207 days from your travel date
The average airfare: $545
Cheapest month to travel: January
Most expensive month to travel: December
Least expensive days of the week to fly: Tuesday and Wednesday

 

South America

Prime Booking Window: 5 weeks to almost 11 months before departure
Best time to buy: About 110 days from your travel date
The average airfare: $845
Cheapest month to travel: February
Most expensive month to travel: December
Least expensive days of the week to fly: Tuesday and Wednesday

 

South Pacific

Prime Booking Window: 54 days to just over 8 months
Best time to buy: About 197 days from your travel date
The average airfare: $1,708
Cheapest month to travel: May
Most expensive month to travel: December
Least expensive days of the week to fly: Tuesday and Wednesday

 

Asia

Prime Booking Window: A little over a month to 7 months
Best time to buy: About 120 days from your travel date
The average airfare: $1,113
Cheapest month to travel: November
Most expensive month to travel: June
Least expensive days of the week to fly: Tuesday and Wednesday

 

Europe

Prime Booking Window: About 1.5 months to a little more than 8 months
Best time to buy: 160 days from your travel date
The average airfare: $1,151
Cheapest month to travel: March
Most expensive month to travel: July
Least expensive days of the week to fly: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday

 

Africa and the Middle East

Prime Booking Window: 96 to 287 days before departure
Best time to buy: About 199 days from your travel date
The average airfare: $1,238
Cheapest month to travel: February
Most expensive month to travel: July
Least expensive days of the week to fly: Tuesday and Wednesday

How to score good airplane deals

Photo by Christine Roy on Unsplash

 

How to Score Good Deals on Plane Tickets

1. Always Compare Airfare

The first rule on how to book a flight is to always compare prices from different airline companies. This gives you an estimate of how much you can spend on your tickets since some airlines charge higher than others. You can search for the same destination and date and find out which airlines have better deals as compared to others.

When it comes to looking for the flight deal with the cheapest rates, never book on your first search.

 

2. Be Flexible

Prices for plane tickets are highly affected by the season, time of the year, as well as holidays. If you are planning to fly when everyone else will be, or if you plan to visit a city at the same time everyone else will visit, chances are your airfare will cost you more. For example, if you want to visit Paris in August where the kids are out of school, you might not be able to find a cheap airline ticket. You may want to consider visiting Paris in spring or fall when fewer people visit.

 

Instead of searching for a specific date, you may want to search for alternative dates so you can take advantage of the best deals with the cheapest days to fly. You can also choose to fly during the off-season as well and find better airline tickets. As for the days, it’s always cheaper to fly during the middle of the week rather than on weekends since most travel on weekends. Plane tickets are also generally more expensive before a holiday.

 

So if you want to look for cheaper plane tickets, you may want to reconsider your dates of travel and go with a set of flexible dates.

 

3. Fly for Free and Use Travel Points and Miles

Also known as travel hacking, signing up for a travel rewards card is another way travelers can get the cheapest airfare. These reward cards also offer flight upgrades, free hotel stays, and exclusive access to airport lounges. You can sign up for any travel rewards credit card that earns points with an airline, or a standard airline rewards card that allows you to redeem points at different airlines.

 

You may use your card for normal purchases like how one would normally use cash. That way, you can earn points that will eventually translate into free flights.

 

4. Use Flight Search Engines

One of the easiest ways to cheaply book a flight is to use flight search engines such as Skyscanner, Kayak, Tripadvisor Flights, and more. These Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) have inflated flight costs as part of their commission from the airlines and include most airline companies. While not all budget carries may be included, using search engines is a good way for one to start their search for good deals.

 

Some of the notable flight search engines include:

  • Skyscanner
    Skyscanner searches for flight deals from major airlines as well as budget carriers, including English and non-English websites. Their interface is straightforward and those on the go can still look for the best airline deals with their mobile app.
  • Momondo
    Momondo offers a visual comparison of weekly price trends for your chosen flight. One can already determine which is the best day to book flights as well as the cheapest days to fly. They also offer different filtering options for you to go through a more in-depth search.
  • Kiwi.com
    For travelers looking for multi-destination flights, Kiwi.com combines different airlines and shows cheaper results than searching with just one airline. Just enter the place where you will arrive from and depart at, as well as the cities you’ll be visiting, and they will show an itinerary from different airlines.

 

5. Fly with Low-Cost Airlines

Nowadays, budget carriers like Southwest, Jetstar, and VivaAerobus are gaining popularity among travelers for their affordable plane tickets. The rise of low-cost airlines now makes it easier for one to travel across the globe without breaking the bank. For as low as 100 USD, you can travel to Asia or Australia.

 

However, one has to remember that this comes with its own compromises. Most of the low-cost airlines charge extra for food and checked-in bags, adding more to the overall cost. Taxes and other charges are usually not included in the base fare. If you will be flying to a closer destination, you may opt to book from a low-cost carrier since most planes lack legroom and cabin space.

 

Overall, while you get fewer benefits, you get to save more when you fly with budget airlines.

 

6. Take Advantage of Student Discounts

If you are a student, you may get up to 20% or 30% off in airline tickets. Websites like StudentUniverse and STA Travel have made it easier for students to search and book airline tickets as well as hotel stays and tours.

 

Airline companies like Air India provide special student perks while Alaska Airlines offers discounts to students of any age. Student discounts also extend to airline partners; Delta Airlines student discounts can also be used on partner companies like KLM and Air France.

 

For students who are interested in availing this discount, you may call your local airlines to verify, or check their website terms if they offer discounts.

 

7. Search Ticket Prices for Individual Travelers

For those traveling with family or friends, searching and buying multiple tickets may cost you more compared to buying as a single person. Airlines usually show the most expensive ticket price in a group so you might end up paying more money.

 

If you are a group of three, the airline will show the base fare based on the highest ticket price. If the seats cost 250 USD, 300 USD, and 400 USD, the base fare for all seats will be at 400 USD each. In that case, it’s best to search for tickets per individual. You may pick your seats so that your group is together at an additional cost (depending per airline), but you’ve saved a couple of hundred dollars.

 

8. Sign up for Newsletters and Flight Deal Websites

Joining mailing lists for airlines and last-minute deal websites is another way to catch the best time to buy an airline ticket. While they might not be exactly what you’re looking for, you can find other great deals that are too good to miss. In 2016, Emirates offered an 899 USD flash sale for tickets for two to Italy from New York, and in 2013, Norwegian announced a 175 USD flight to Paris in their newsletter.

 

Other airline newsletters also offer bonuses for frequent fliers that can add up to upgrades, benefits, and even free flights. Some newsletter and mailing lists also announce flash sales in advance so it’s good to be one step ahead.

 

For those looking for websites that offer the best travel deals, The Flight Deal and Secret Flying are great places to start for those based in the USA and Europe, respectively.

 

9. Search Ticket Prices in Other Currencies

You can also save money by paying your airline ticket in another currency. Most of the time, low-cost carriers will make you pay in the currency of the country you’ll be originating from, but this also varies per airline. If your country’s currency is stronger compared to others, you can search in a country where the currency is weaker. This isn’t always the case, but it’s worth trying especially if your country’s currency isn’t doing well.

 

But before you can book a flight, make sure your credit card is free of foreign transaction fees. Otherwise, you might end up paying for a surcharge–completely defeating your goal of finding a cheap plane ticket.

 

Conclusion

To determine the best time to book a flight, several factors must be considered. These include the destination, seasonality, and others. One should also take note of the holidays and current affairs before deciding when to visit a country. If you are a student, consider looking for airlines that offer student discounts and you may be able to save more. With the right tools and a bit of luck, you may be able to get a plane ticket at a low price. Things like comfort may be compromised when it comes to looking for the cheapest flight deals, but the amount you’ll be saving can definitely make up for it.