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Best time to book a flight? 54 days in advance

You can get the lowest fare by buying plane tickets within the 'prime booking window.'

By MSN Money Partner Mar 20, 2014 12:46PM

This post comes from Krystal Steinmetz at partner site Money Talks News.


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyFluctuating daily airfares can make booking a flight frustrating. It's the Goldilocks principle: Buy too early and prices will be high; buy too late and you'll likely pay a lot more for your ticket.


But there appears to be a magic number -- 54 -- a "just right" time that you need to know to get the best bargain on your flight.


Woman using computer on airplane © Compassionate Eye Foundation, Lifesize, Getty ImagesYou will find the cheapest airfares about 54 days prior to departure, according to a new study by CheapAir, which examined more than 4 million trips in 2013. It said:

According to the data, sometime around 225 days out (7½ months), on average, fares started to drop and by 104 days out (3½ months) they had fallen to within $10 of their low point. From there they continued to drop, slowly but steadily, until reaching a low 54 days before departure. After 54 days, fares started to climb again, remaining within $10 of that low until 29 days out. Then, the increase began to accelerate and once you were within 14 days the fares really shot up dramatically.

The study said 54 isn't really an exact number; it's best to purchase plane tickets about 29 to 104 days prior to flying, a time referred to as the "prime booking window." Average airfares are typically within about $10 of the lowest fare possible within the prime window.


There is an exception to this rule, Airfarewatchdog said. If you plan on flying during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays or want to book a popular route, like Florida during spring break, it's best to book as early as possible.


It really is frustrating to watch airfares go up and down, and then finally book a flight, only to have prices drop significantly after the fact.


Do you have tips to share about when you usually book your flights?


More on Money Talks News:

30Comments
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The best time to book a flight?

There is no best time if you book a flight on United Airlines. Their best time is your worst time!

Mar 29, 2014 8:03AM
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A Greyhound Bus has more class than today's airline travel.
Mar 29, 2014 10:00AM
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There really is no "best time" to book a flight if you look beyond the cost factor.  The further out you book the more apt the airline will change your flight-- time(s) of departure or arrival, predominately.  And don't bother complaining-- although YOU can't do that once you have booked the flight-- unless you want to incur a "change fee", they are permitted to change the booked flight circumstances, with cost impunity.  Why aren't they subject to a "change refund" for your inconvenience, just as you were assessed a fee for them to "do a change"??  The Government is so closely aligned with the airline industry-- exempting them from a host of anti business and anti competition rules; that the airlines have no fear of abusing the customer.  Just another example of the Government getting too cozy with those that they are suppose to monitor. 
Mar 29, 2014 8:44AM
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Try to book a fight at night it is not as many people on the fight as a rule, it easy to fall sleep.Good Luck
Mar 29, 2014 11:14AM
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best time to book a flight is never, unless your life depends on it
Mar 29, 2014 1:25PM
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Was anyone else hoping the number was going to be 42?
Mar 29, 2014 1:25PM
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We only fly Southwest for domestic. We book for most trips 4-5 months ahead. Rebook if the points decreases and cancel original flight. The points are refunded. We have (2) Southwest Visa charge cards that came with an original 50,000 points each. do a lot of shopping on line with Southwest shopping and get up to 12 points per dollar spent. We have not spent cash for any flights in over 4 years. Flights from Phoenix have been Chicago, St Louis, Fort Lauderdale, Boston, San Antonio, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Denver and Baltimore. We give points to friends and relatives coming to Phoenix (of course from November thru April).
Mar 29, 2014 2:14PM
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It really depends on your priorities.  I start looking 6 months in advance.  
Usually my travel dates are not firm so I check different departure and return date combos. 
I am looking for flights that are upgradable, either offering the upgrade at that time or flights having the largest number of business class seats available.  
If I am flying over night or for longer than 4 hours,  then I look for flights that have coach seats that are 2's and try to avoid the 3's and 4's.
It is probably more time than most people want to spend, but I usually get what I want one way or the other... an upgrade, a good coach seat or a good price.
Mar 29, 2014 1:33PM
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I usually try to plan my vacations at least two months in advance. I've found it cheaper to book flights on days other than Fridays, Saturdays, the day before, on, or the day after a holiday.
Mar 29, 2014 8:52AM
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No way, 54 days before flight time I would be spending a lot on insurance because I never know from week to week where I'll even be located..... 
Mar 29, 2014 3:48PM
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The article is a bit confusing....first it says 54 days is the magical number & then it says 29-104 days.  So which is it??????????
Mar 29, 2014 7:16PM
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Obamaville Airlines - our flights never really get all the way off of the ground.

Mar 29, 2014 10:54AM
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Seen the new Malaysian Airlines ad?:

 

FLY MALAYSIAN AIRLINES AND LET US TAKE YOU ---SOMEWHERE?

Mar 23, 2014 10:05AM
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The best time to book is AFTER they've found and solved the mystery of MH 370.
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