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It’s no secret that the price of airline tickets and hotel rooms changes almost as fast as the weather. It may be hard to predict, but according to Expedia’s 2019 Travel Pricing Outlook, there are certain times to book travel that are optimal to score major savings.
Travelers often make up to 50 searches before deciding on a flight. So Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Corporation analyzed more than 50 billion online flight searches and 295 million flights in 2018. Here’s what the data say about the best times to fly.
Do the math before booking basic economy
Perhaps you're considering booking a flight on a different day because you can fly for less on a basic economy fare. Make sure you consider the extra charges you might have to pay for bags or seat assignments if you opt for the pared-down ticket. We made this handy calculator to help you find the true cost you would pay for a basic economy fare when you add in the extra fees. It takes into account your travel credit cards and elite status, too, but it only applies for flights within the U.S. (international baggage fees are much more complex).
Don't wait until the last minute to book flights
The average ticket prices tend to rise as the travel date gets closer, not decrease as airlines try to fill seats. In the 2019 Travel Pricing Outlook, the data show that the best time to book flights is three weeks before your trip.
» Learn more: When is the best time to buy airline tickets?
Book flights on a weekend
It may be fun to browse flights, and maybe impulsively buy one, while you’re sitting at work during the week, but you could save a good chunk of money by waiting until the weekend to purchase your plane ticket. The best day of the week to buy tickets, per Expedia, is Sunday because travelers could save up to 36% compared with booking on other days. Airfares purchased on Saturdays can also be up to 20% cheaper. The most expensive average ticket prices are usually on Thursdays and Fridays.
» Learn More: Find the best airline credit card for you
Start travel on Thursday or Friday
The best days to book flights are essentially the opposite of the best days to fly. Travelers can often find the lowest ticket prices for flights that depart on Thursdays or Fridays.
Extend your weekday trip into Sunday
If you need a reason to persuade your bosses to let you turn your next work trip into a bleisure trip, try telling them it might save the company money. Almost three-quarters of the weekday-only flights analyzed would drop in price when the trip was extended to Sunday. The savings on flights were usually between 25% and 50%, especially for some popular corporate travel destinations.
Don’t assume nonstop flights are more expensive
Consider this myth busted. Expedia and ARC found that direct flights can cost less than flights with stops because of fluctuations in demand for the route.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card