Air Travel Hacks: When to Book A Flight

According to new research from Expedia, air travel is a leading cause of stress for 55 percent of Americans—ranking higher than filing taxes or visiting the dentist. To help break the cycle of stress as the busy holiday travel season approaches, however, Expedia—in partnership with Airlines Reporting Corp. (ARC) and OAG—has shared its “2024 Air Travel Hacks Report,” unpacking data-backed strategies for saving money and reducing stress.

Here's what you need to know:

Domestic airfare should be booked 28 days before departure. Travelers saved up to 24 percent compared to those who booked at the last minute, surpassing the 10 percent savings travelers saw on average in 2022. International airfare, on the other hand, should be booked around 60 days out (and no more than four months out) for optimal availability and savings (around 10 percent on average). Last year, the sweet spot was closer to six months out. (If you want to gamble, Expedia notes that this year’s data shows that the prices of international flights sometimes drop a few days before departure, but waiting until the last minute can often mean limited selection and availability.)

Sunday remains the cheapest day of the week to book flights, while Fridays are most expensive. Travelers who book on Sundays instead of Fridays tend to save, on average, around 6 percent on domestic flights and 13 percent on international flights. That said, Sundays are the priciest day of the week, on average, to start a trip. Instead, depart on a Thursday to save up to 16 percent.

Fly before 3 p.m. to minimize the impact of delays and cancelations. Thirty-two percent of U.S. air travelers try to avoid morning flights because getting up early on the day of travel gives them additional stress; however, year-to-date flight status data reveals flights departing after 3 p.m. have a 50 percent higher chance, on average, of being canceled than those that depart earlier in the day.

The analysis also found that average ticket prices remain nearly flat compared to last year: While both the number of scheduled short-haul and long-haul flights is nearly at 2019 level, average ticket prices have decreased by up to 3 percent compared to 2022. In addition, flight cancellation rates have improved (1.7 percent of flights in 2023 versus 4.1 percent in 2022)—both of which are positive trends for travelers that cited finding a good deal (61 percent) and worrying about disruptions (28 percent) as big contributors to stress.

As for the most popular destinations, New York City, Los Angeles and Las Vegas rank among the most popular domestic destinations for U.S. flyers. The most popular international destinations are Cancun, Mexico; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; and Mexico City, Mexico.

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