When is the Best Time to Buy Airline Tickets?

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Now here is some travel advice every jetsetter needs to know. Many well-seasoned travelers have theories about what day of the week is best to shop around for airline tickets, but one fare comparison website has pinpointed the exact time prices tend to drop.

Travel experts have long warned travelers to steer clear of buying tickets on weekends and instead hold out for the middle of the week when prices tend to be lower. But airfare tracking website FareCompare has identified an exact time to shop.

So when is the best time to buy airline tickets? FareCompare claims prices are lowest on Tuesday at 3pm Eastern.

Similar to gas prices, airline pricing goes through a weekly cycle. FareCompare says airlines typically file airfare sales late Monday, with one or two airlines kicking of a sale each week, leaving other carriers scrambling to match the new lower prices early Tuesday morning. By 3pm Eastern, the most competitive fares have hit the market and the cheapest sales are available to customers. The sales tend to last for just three days; meaning late Thursday the sale prices are pulled and weekend shoppers are left searching through a database of more expensive tickets.

"Like bread, fares get sort of stale toward the end of the week," Bob Harrell, a fare consultant who has tracked airline pricing for years, tells the Wall Street Journal.

Harrell studied all fares filed by airlines over the past 90 days and found the same results are FareCompare: Monday is typically the biggest day for fare changes, while Thursday night is often the time when airlines hike up ticket prices.

If travel plans allow you to be flexible, there are also some departure dates that are cheaper. FareCompare finds Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday are the cheapest days to fly, while Monday, Friday and Sunday tend to be the most expensive days.

As a last bit of advice, FareCompare says it pays not to procrastinate: airlines begin to up-charge for tickets 14 days before departure. The sweet spot for purchasing tickets is usually the window between three months and 14 days before takeoff.

Of course, this may be something travelers knew all along. According to the Wall Street Journal, the three big online travel agencies -- Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz -- all reported Tuesday is the busiest day for booking while Saturday is the slowest.

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