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Planning Your Flight: The Best (And Worst) Days To Fly

Looking to plan a trip? If so, then you may be wondering when the best time to book and the best time to travel will be. Of course, there is no universal answer to the question of when the best time to fly is. This will depend largely on your destination and other factors. Still, there are some general tips to keep in mind when it comes to booking and planning your flight at the ideal time. By following these tips, you may be able to maximize your savings and enjoy less stress overall during your travels.

Best And Worst Times Of Year To Fly

The Worst

In general, the worst times of the year to fly are during school breaks/holidays (such as spring break), as well as times of major sporting events and festivals. Of course, traveling during these times isn’t always avoidable. For example, if you have a school-aged child and you’re looking to take a trip during the school year, you’ll be more-or-less limited to traveling during your child’s school holidays unless you’re comfortable with him or her missing school for a trip. First time traveling with children? Check out our flying with children guide.

Some of the more common holidays where you’ll probably want to avoid traveling include spring break, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Christmas, and Thanksgiving. The demand for airline tickets is extremely high during these times and, as a result, you’ll pay a premium for your fares and will likely face a jam-packed (or possibly even overbooked) plane.

Depending on your destination, there may be additional times of the year when you’ll want to avoid flying, if possible. For example, flying to New Orleans during Mardis Gras may not be the best idea, just as traveling to a city hosting the Super Bowl in early February may not be wise.

The Best

On the other hand, there are some times of the year when you can find great deals on flights. However, it’s less about the time of year as it is about the destination. Traveling to your ideal destinations during non-peak times can be a great way to not only save money on your flight but to enjoy fewer crowds as well.

For example, if you’ve always wanted to see New York City at Christmas time, you’ll probably end up paying a huge premium (and face even more crowds than usual) if you visit during the week of Christmas or even New Year’s Eve. Offsetting your trip by even a week or two in either direction can save you a lot of money on your flight and help you avoid holiday crowds. At the same time, you may still get to enjoy the beauty of New York City covered in fresh snow and decked out in holiday lights.

No matter where you’d like to travel, there is generally a “high” and “low” season for every destination. Most often, those seasons are based on weather. For example, east-coast destinations like New England are extremely popular during the fall months and less-so during the frigid winter months, so planning a trip during the early winter may be a great way to save money.

Best And Worst Days Of The Week To Fly

Now that you have a better idea of the best and worst times of year to fly, what about specific days of the week? Does it really make a difference if you choose a weekend flight over a flight smack-dab in the middle of the week? You might be surprised.

The Worst

With most people needing to travel over the weekend, it makes sense that Friday, Saturday, and even Sunday flights tend to have the highest demand to/from most destinations. This is generally true of both business and leisure travel. Those flying for business often leave at the end of the workweek (such as on a Thursday or Friday) and then return home on a Sunday. Those flying for leisure may follow a similar schedule, as people who work a “traditional” 9-5 schedule will want to minimize the amount of time they have to take off work to travel.

The Best

On the flip side, the best time of the week to fly is generally right in the middle of the week, such as Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. During these days, you’ll be more likely to find cheaper flights and there’s a good chance that the flight you’re on won’t be overly crowded. Many people find that the added savings of traveling during the middle of the week can even offset the burden of having to take additional time off of work.

Many airlines have also made it easier to determine your ideal travel dates by providing a fare calendar, which allows you to see what the exact fares are for your desired flight based on the day. Taking the time to check out one of these fare calendars can help you see when it may be worth it to book a flight in the middle of the week as opposed to flying out on a Friday, for example.

What Are The Best Times To Book A Flight?

Just as there are best and worst times to fly, there are also best and worst times to book a flight. These will vary depending on where you’ll be traveling. Unfortunately, there is no universal answer as to which day of the week is best to book, or how far out you should book a flight to get the best deals.

There are some general guidelines to keep in mind, however. If you’ll be flying internationally, you’ll typically find the best rates if you book well in advance. Waiting until a few weeks or even a few days before your international trip to book is likely to cost you, especially if you’ll be traveling to an in-demand destination where fare availability is limited in the first place. Make sure to check baggage restrictions on international flights as they may only allow international carry-ons on their plane and checked luggage fees may apply.

For domestic flights, booking a couple of months out generally helps you find the best deal and may also make it easier to snag a flight where you can choose your seat.

In terms of specific days of the week that are the best (or worst) to book, there is a lot of information floating around about this—but none of it has been proven. Some say that fares tend to be the lowest on a Sunday, whereas others claim Tuesday is the best time to book. Ultimately, the best day of the week to book a flight probably varies depending on the specific airline and destination.

If you really want to ensure the lowest possible fare, consider using a travel website that allows you to compare rates across many different airlines. Many free online resources for researching fares will also offer an option to sign up for e-mail alerts; this way, you can receive a notification if a lower fare is found for a destination to which you want to travel.

Some airlines also offer free cancelation, so if you find a cheaper fare in the days leading up to your flight, you can cancel and rebook at no charge. Southwest Airlines is just one of many airlines that offers this perk—so even if you’ve already booked your flight, it may be worth it to continue monitoring fares in the days and weeks leading up to your scheduled departure.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, there is no exact “formula” for choosing the best time to fly or even book a flight. There are so many different factors that come into play, including the time of year, climate, special holidays/events, and even the specific airline you’re booking with.

In general, however, you can save the most money by traveling during non-peak times of year at your destination and being open to traveling during the middle of the week as opposed to the weekend. This, in addition to using free online resources to research fares before you book, can help you save money and have a more enjoyable trip.

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