Pinpointing the best time to book a flight can feel like shooting at a moving target. Prices often fluctuate from day to day. Some people insist on booking flights many months in advance to save money; others suggest waiting until the last minute to score the best deal. So what's the best move as you're making travel plans in retirement?
There isn't one hard-and-fast rule dictating the best time to book a flight. But there are ways you can strategize to find a good price on your next flight. Here are a few tips to follow.
Don't Book Too Early — Or Too Late
When it comes to booking airfare, take a Goldilocks approach: Don't book years in advance (most airlines won't allow this anyway). But also, don't wait to book until the day before you depart. Instead, try to book some time in the middle.
Experts recommend purchasing airfare for domestic travel around one to four months before your trip, according to CNN. For international travel, it's more advantageous to plan ahead. Book trips overseas around 10 months or so before your departure date.
Be Flexible with Dates and Flight Patterns
You could save money on airfare simply by departing on a Wednesday instead of a Friday. Midweek flights tend to be more affordable than flights on the weekend, according to a Google analysis of five years' worth of travel data.
Plus, if you're willing to travel during off-peak times, you could find more affordable flights in addition to cheaper accommodations.
Google's analysis also found that direct flights are generally more expensive than flights with a connection. If you don't mind adding a layover to your itinerary, you could stand to save on airfare.
Use Online Tools To Track Prices
These days, online airfare searches make it easier than ever to keep an eye on flight prices and get a jump on purchases when fares decrease. Set price alerts on Google Alerts to receive emails whenever prices drop for your itinerary. You can set alerts for flights on specific dates or set up a general price alert that notifies you whenever prices are low for your desired route.
Take Advantage of Points and Rewards
If you fly often, staying loyal to one airline can pay off in the form of points that you can apply toward your next flight. If you have a rewards credit card, make sure you're taking advantage of travel perks — some credit cards offer extra cash back or other incentives when you purchase airfare.
Ultimately, it can be tough to determine the exact best time to book a flight. But, by following these tips, you can be confident that you're getting a fair deal on your next trip.