The Best Time to Buy International Flights

There's no perfect booking window for international flights. Planning and flexibility make finding deals easier.
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Written by Anya Kartashova
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Edited by Meg Lee
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You’ve heard it all before.

Some say the best time to purchase international flights is on a Tuesday. At the first crow of a rooster. When the air temperature is 75 degrees Fahrenheit and the moon is in retrograde.

On the contrary, we say the best time to book international airfare is as simple as when you feel the price is right. It sounds so simple, but it’s true. The moment you see a good deal is when to buy international flights.

However, you still can use statistics to your advantage when searching for airfare. Here’s what you need to know about the best time to buy international flights.

Factors affecting price

Before you book an international flight, consider the following factors, which will all affect airfare prices:

  • The number of airlines that serve the flight route: The more carriers competing for passengers on any given route, the higher the chances of competitive pricing.

  • The time of year you’re traveling: Peak season will result in peak pricing, so perhaps traveling in shoulder season or offseason will yield a better deal.

  • The booking window: How far in advance are you searching for airfare? The trick is to not be too early or too late. So, when is the best time to book international flights?

When to start looking for international flights

Most airlines release seat inventory at least five months in advance. Some, including United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines, release it even 11 months out.

While this far in advance might not necessarily be the right time to book a flight, it is a smart time to start window shopping. You can set up flight trackers for specific dates and get an idea of the average flight prices to your destination as well as the cheapest days to fly.

🤓Nerdy Tip

You can set a price alert on the travel search engine of your choice — whether it’s Google Flights, Hopper, Skyscanner or Kayak. They’ll send you an email when they see the price drop.

The best time to book international flights is between two and eight months before your trip, according to Going (formerly Scott's Cheap Flights), a flight deals subscription service. However, if you need to book airfare during peak holidays or travel season — like Christmas, New Year’s Eve or summer months — you might have to look further in advance.

Contrary to old advice and popular belief, because flight prices fluctuate constantly, there’s no single best day or time to book airfare.

Least expensive days to fly internationally

Though there’s no single "best day" to buy airfare to other countries, there are best days to fly if you want to bag the best bargain, and statistically it’s Tuesdays and Wednesdays, according to an analysis of more than 917 million airfares by flight booking site CheapAir.com.

If your travel dates are flexible, look for a departure and a return on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and you're more likely to pay less for airfare.

Where to look for least expensive international flights

Google Flights, a flight search tool, is a good place to start searching for flight deals.

Let’s say you’re searching for flights from New York to Madrid, and your travel dates are flexible.

Simply enter your departure and destination cities and click on the calendar, but instead of picking a random date, scroll through the calendar and search for the dates displayed in green. These are going to be the most optimal prices at the time of your search.

If you need a little help identifying whether the price you see is good, Google displays a price history graph for select airlines that tells you how much the specific flight costs based on historical data.

In this case, the flight we’ve chosen usually costs $653 more, so right now could be a great time to buy this flight to Europe. That said, several days before our search, the same flight was even less expensive. Theoretically, it could drop in price again.

Tips for finding cheap international flights

Travel on a holiday

Few travelers want to spend a holiday on a plane. Most prefer to fly before or after, therefore traveling on the actual holiday itself will save you the most money. Let’s take a look at the flights from New York to Madrid again. Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day departures cost less than the days before or after, so pick those to save on airfare.

Be flexible with your destination

If the destination isn’t as important as the flight cost, consider using the Explore feature of Google Flights or the flights to "Everywhere" feature on Skyscanner.

skyscanner everywhere search

With it, choose your departure city and leave the destination airport open, and the search engines will give you multiple options for cheap flights to a number of cities.

Here's an example from Google Flights. We entered New York as the departing point and hovered over Europe, and the search engine suggested a round-trip flight to Berlin for a week in October for $292, which is cheaper than usual.

Lean on price trackers

Use a price tracker to keeps tabs on your travel route in general or for a preferred date and even a specific flight.

If you’re flexible, you can track multiple dates, and the tool will send you an email when the price changes significantly on your desired route. You’ll also receive a notification when the airfare for a route you’re tracking is likely to increase.

Take advantage of Google’s price guarantee

Select itineraries that you find through Google Flights are eligible for a price guarantee. The flights must depart from the United States and be priced in U.S. dollars, and you must be logged in to your Google account to search, and the flight must be marked with the Price Guarantee badge.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Flights that qualify for the Price Guarantee can be booked on Google, via select travel agencies’ websites or directly with airlines, assuming you first found the airfare on Google Flights.

If an eligible flight drops in price by at least $5 before departure, Google will make up the difference and pay you back, and you can get up to $500 per Google account per calendar year.

Book smart with travel credit cards

Travel credit cards with transferable currencies can be especially helpful when booking international flights, as these programs give you ample choice for booking airfare across their many transfer partners.

Consider these popular bank programs' transfer partners:

Popular cards for international flights
The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on American Express' website

Rates & Fees
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
NerdWallet Rating
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on Chase's website

Citibank Strata Premier Card
Citi Strata Premier℠ Card
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on Citibank's application

Rates & Fees
Annual fee

$695.

$95.

$95.

$95.

Welcome offer

Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $8,000 on eligible purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.

Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Earn 70,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months of account opening, redeemable for $700 in gift cards or travel rewards at thankyou.com.

Earn rate

• 5 points per $1 on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel, on up to $500,000 spent per year.

• 5 points per $1 on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.

• 1 point per $1 on other eligible purchases.

Terms apply.

• 5 miles per $1 on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel.

• 2 miles per $1 on all other purchases.

• 5 points per $1 on travel booked through Chase.

• 3 points per $1 on dining (including eligible delivery services and takeout), select streaming services and online grocery purchases (not including Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs).

• 2 points per $1 on other travel.

• 1 point per $1 on other purchases.

• 10 ThankYou® points per $1 spent on hotels, car rentals and attractions booked through the Citi Travel site.

• 3 points per $1 on air travel and other hotel purchases.

• 3 points per $1 on supermarkets.

• 3 points per $1 on gas stations and EV charging stations.

• 3 points per $1 on restaurants.

• 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.

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The bottom line

There isn’t a universal time and day for the best time to book an international flight, but you can follow certain tactics for finding the best deal.

For starters, travel during shoulder season, be flexible with your departure days and set flight trackers to keep an eye on flight costs.

If you can’t avoid peak season and holidays, make sure to book well in advance. Use online tools to help you identify the most affordable tickets and even find low-cost flights to anywhere on a map during your travel window.

To view rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, see this page.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are some of the best travel credit cards of 2024:

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