BOUNTIFUL – Finding that sweet spot in booking a flight so that you're getting the best possible bang for your buck may seem more like an art than science. There is real data revealing some do's and some don'ts about the best and worst times to book flights.
It is a busy time for travel agents, and it is not just excited travelers buttoning up their summer plans. Folks are also making fall and even winter travel arrangements.
"There's such a pent-up demand. People haven't gone anywhere," said Larry Gelwix, CEO of Columbus Travel. "They're sitting on stimulus checks and they say it's time to 'get out of Dodge.'"
Is it the right time to book?
After an analysis of more than 917 million domestic airfares over the past year, researchers at CheapAir.com found the best day price-wise to book your flight is 64 days before you depart. The data flies in the face of some common misconceptions such as the earlier you book, the more you save.
Turns out, for each day you book ahead of that 64-day window the higher the airfare goes. It can reach as high as around $200 more per seat if you try to snag it within days of becoming available, CheapAir's analysis found.
"If you buy it 11 months in advance, you're not going to get a deal," said Gelwix.
Generally, about two months prior, you see some really good deals.
–Larry Gelwix, Columbus Travel
The KSL Investigators asked Gelwix for his take on the number and it holds true from his experience.
"Generally, about two months prior, you see some really good deals," Gelwix explained. "If it's a nonpeak period and a nonholiday, nonspecial event."
You are not likely to find any deals no matter when you buy if you must travel the day before Thanksgiving or Christmas, or to special events such as the Super Bowl or spring break in Florida, or say you need to send an entire TV crew to Tokyo to cover the 2020 Olympic Summer Games.
When an airline is preparing to leave and they have unsold seats, you may find the airline practically giving them away, he said.
"You'll wait until the bitter end — sometimes you can really pick up a deal. Other times the prices go up or are sold out," said Gelwix.
You'll wait until the bitter end – sometimes you can really pick up a deal. Other times the prices go up or are sold out.
–Larry Gelwix, Columbus Travel
CheapAir's data showed the average last-minute ticket costs around $160 more than tickets bought the 64 days before the trip.
Oh, and if you have heard somewhere on the Internet that you'll get the best fares if you book on a Tuesday, well, CheapAir's data analysis showed that is not true.
However, if you fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday you will score cheaper tickets than flying on a Friday or Saturday. The savings is substantial compared to flying on a Thursday, Sunday or Monday.
Another way to possibly save is by seeing what it would cost to combine both your flight and, say, a hotel at a travel agency.
"It's a deeply, deeply discounted airfare. Cannot be sold air only. Cannot buy it directly from the airline," explained Gelwix. "It has to be bundled or coupled with something else."
He said he has found deals for customers where they actually save money by booking a hotel that the traveler never sets foot inside.