When you’re planning your next spring or summer holidays, you’ll want to make sure you get the best deal on flights. But how far in advance should you book your plane ticket?
Skyscanner and CheapAir analysed over 200 million flights over three years and came up with a formula that lets you know the answer to the question we all like to know:
When is the optimum time to book my flights?
The formula for cheap air tickets
According to the research, the optimum ‘window’ for bagging cheap air tickets is from 29 days – 104 days before date of departure.
The research shows that the cheapest time to book flights in advance from the UK is as follows:
Spain – 5 weeks
USA – 21 weeks
Italy – 6 weeks
France – 6 weeks
Greece – 3 weeks
Turkey – 13 weeks
Portugal – 5 weeks
Germany – 9 weeks
Cyprus – 4 weeks
Croatia – 6 weeks
However, air fares can fluctuate and so it’s advisable to sign up for price alerts so you know when the lower prices become available. Nonetheless the research is interesting and we decided to try it ourselves.
We searched for a flight from London to Athens (Greece) departing less than a week from the time of writing, returning in 7 days, and the cheapest direct flight returned was £95. We did the same search but for the optimum 3 weeks in advance of departure, again returning in one week, and the cheapest direct flight, albeit with a different airline, was £68. We decided to increase the time from 3 weeks to 5 weeks and found that the cheapest direct flight was cheaper still at £61.
But then we searched for a direct flight from London to Malaga (Spain), again, less than a week before departure, and the cheapest flight was £59. We searched again for a flight 5 weeks in advance and the cheapest flight returned was £45. Searching 8 weeks in advance however, returned a cheapest flight of £64, so the price had gone up again after the recommended 5 weeks in advance.
We think this formula works although you could probably push the number of weeks in advance like we did with our Athens trip. Yet be aware of holidays such as Christmas or Easter, because flights will always be more expensive around those times. So it’s worth double checking latest prices around the optimum time and earlier.
Here’s another crucial tip. After searching for flights online do clear your ‘cookies’. – According to the Telegraph newspaper, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest companies keep a record of your flight searches and push up prices the more you search to pressure you into buying before prices “rise” further. So if you search for a flight more than a couple of times in a week you could be targeted. To avoid this, clear your browser cookies after each search – or turn on anonymous browsing.
Now you’ll have the best chance to find cheap air tickets with this knowledge.