When's The Best Time to Book Airline Tickets?

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By Karla Bowsher

Formulas for when to book a plane ticket at the best price seem to be an increasingly inexact science. Some theories are supported by data, but the Associated Press reports that trying to use a formula to book the best airline ticket price can also be like trying to time the stock market (which Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson has called a fool's game).

Patrick Scurry, chief data scientist for Hopper, a travel-information firm that archives ticket prices, tells the AP:

"There isn't a golden rule anymore. There are these 'average' rules, but they're not that useful necessarily for a specific trip."

Some rules also contradict others.

On domestic flights, for example, Airlines Reporting Corp., which handles tickets sold through travel agents, determined that prices for domestic flights are cheapest 57 days before the flight. But fare-search website CheapAir.com advises 47 days before the flight, on average. Rules also fluctuate on the best day of the week to buy tickets.

It used to be Tuesday, when airlines often announced advertised sales. Expedia says if you are buying tickets for a flight that is at least three weeks out, Tuesday is still the cheapest day, followed closely by Wednesday.

For flights that depart within three weeks, Expedia says, Sunday is a little cheaper.

AirfareWatchdog.com founder George Hobica tells the AP, however, that shoppers should check prices daily because unadvertised sales can happen any day of the week:

"Sometimes we'll see amazing sales on Saturday mornings, especially to international destinations. A lot of people don't search on weekends because they've been brainwashed to think that Tuesday is the day to book."

Rules for whether it's better to book tickets early or late also now vary.

For example, waiting for prices to drop at the last minute doesn't work as well as it used to, the AP reports. Many flights fill up, which generally means prices go up as the flight nears.

But booking early for flights around the holidays doesn't work either, because airlines know which days passengers prefer to fly and set prices high from the start.

Do you follow any rules or use any formulas when booking plane tickets? Share your tips in our Forums. It's a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.

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