When booking an international trip on a budget, it can be hard to know when to pull the trigger on airline tickets. With flights opening for booking about a year in advance, prices tend to fluctuate quite a bit. How do you know if you're getting the best deal on your next vacation?
As a general rule of thumb, you want to book plane tickets several months in advance since prices spike as the flight time nears. For international flights, you can often nab the best deals when booking two to eight months out. These times are referred to by experts as "Goldilocks windows," meaning they're not too early and not too late — they're just right in the middle.
One of the best tactics for scoring good flight deals is to start tracking prices as early as possible. Sources like Google Flights, Kayak or Hopper let you keep an eye on fluctuating prices. Their price-tracking tool will take the hassle out of stalking your flight price and will send you an alert when costs increase or decrease, helping you to know when to pounce.
Know that if you plan to travel during popular periods, such as summer or the holidays, most flights won't come down in cost the closer you get to the travel date. The same goes for special events, like a big festival or game.
Use this handy guide, compiled with the help of data from CheapAir.com, to figure out the best time to book your international flight.
A European adventure is a great way to build memories. The cost of European travel is highest in the summer months — possibly because so many families are vacationing with kids while they're out of school. If you travel during that time, you'll also compete with other European vacationers soaking up the summer sun.
However, traveling during the shoulder season could save you big bucks. Families might want to consider traveling over a fall break — or even during Thanksgiving. For the best prices, book one to seven months in advance and plan to fly during October or November. The most expensive months to fly are usually May and June.
Look to head to Mexico for a little getaway? As long as you're not traveling over the winter holidays, you're pretty safe to book a flight to Mexico anywhere from one to several months in advance. If you want to spend time on the beach during the coldest part of the year, consider traveling after the holidays for the cheapest fares. The cheapest tickets can usually be found in January or February. Avoid August or December travel, if possible.
You can typically get a good deal on a plane ticket from the U.S. to the Caribbean by booking just a few months in advance. But it can be more challenging over the holidays, when you should plan on booking about five months ahead of time. September and October are usually the least expensive travel months, while July and December are often the priciest.
Fares to Canada tend to be slightly cheaper in the spring and fall. If you're looking to go over the summer, try to book as far in advance as possible, such as eight to 10 months ahead of time. You're likely to find cheaper flights in February and March. August and December are typically the most expensive months to fly there.
Which days of the week are best to book flights?
Research from Expedia shows us that the ideal day to book a flight is Sunday. For international flights, this could save you up to 10%!
What days of the week are best to fly?
For international flights, it pays to start your trip later in the week. The cheapest days to fly are Tuesday and Wednesday, which could save you up to $350 (Sunday is the most expensive). Think about traveling when no one else would want to and see if those times are any cheaper. For example, you might be able to save if you fly on Christmas morning as opposed to a few days before leading up to the holiday.
Consider booking separate tickets
While it might sound counterintuitive, booking the entire family in one fell swoop might not always be best. Sometimes individual seats are cheaper than a block — just be sure there's no per-ticket processing charge that would negate your savings.
If you have a particular airline you're fond of or want to take advantage of a loyalty membership, it's best to book directly with that carrier. When in doubt, cross-check the price on other sites to help you make the best decision.
While we don't want to drive ourselves crazy trying to book the cheapest vacation, we can practice some tried-and-true strategies to buy at the best time. And with a little luck, you'll improve your chances of landing a good deal.
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This story was originally published by Emily O'Brien on dontwasteyourmoney.com.
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