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When to Fly and When to Buy to Get the Cheapest Airplane Tickets

After three years of COVID-19 pandemic and a long winter, air travel is back in a big way. Students have started hitting beaches for spring break, while families are making summer travel plans.   

Airline prices have dipped since their peak in May 2022, and new fee-free family seating policies eliminate some annoying extra seat charges, but plane tickets are still 25% more expensive than this time last year. One quick way you can save on plane trips is by flying and buying tickets at the right time. 

The Google Flights team looked over five years’ worth of airfare data to find patterns on the cheapest days to fly and the best time for booking your flights during each season. Here are the cheapest days and times of the year to buy plane tickets. 

Which is the cheapest day to fly out?

If you’re planning to book a flight, you may be trying to find the cheapest option. According to Google, it’s cheaper to fly in the middle of the week, rather than on the weekend. Flights that take off between Monday and Wednesday can be between 12% and 20% cheaper than weekend flights. Sundays are an expensive day to depart, Google says.

You could also save roughly 20% by booking a layover flight instead of a nonstop flight if you don’t mind the extra time it takes to get to your destination. 

Is there a certain day you should buy your plane tickets?

While you may have heard that it’s cheaper to book and pay for your plane tickets on a Tuesday rather than a Saturday, that’s not necessarily true. “There isn’t much value in purchasing your tickets on a certain day of the week,” Google said.

If you shop for flights between Tuesday and Thursday instead of the weekend, prices have only been 1.9% cheaper on average over the past five years, the giant search engine company said. 

Plane coming in for a landing at SFO

Look for flights taking off in the middle of the week.

James Martin/CNET

How far out should you book your flight?

It’s best to book your flight far ahead of time instead of waiting closer to your trip to avoid a potential price increase. Google says if you’re booking a domestic flight, the prices are generally at their lowest between 21 and 60 days leading up to the trip. However, it notes that this may not apply to your specific destination.

Google didn’t say how far in advance you should book an international flight.

The best time to book flights during each season

Here’s what Google says about the best time to book for upcoming holidays and vacation times.

Spring break: For domestic trips in March and April, Google says prices have typically been lowest between 23 and 59 days before departure, hitting their lowest price at 38 days out.

Summer vacation: Summer vacation is quickly approaching, so looking for flights now is ideal. For domestic trips beginning in July or August, prices have been lower between 14 and 44 days before departure, with the lowest average prices being 21 days out.

Thanksgiving and Christmas: Google says the lowest flight prices around Thanksgiving have been booked between 36 and 74 days in advance. For Christmas, start keeping an eye out for flights 88 days in advance — the lowest prices have been 22 days before departure, but seats could sell out that close to departure.

Read more: After 500 Flights, This Travel Expert Shares His Best Saving Secrets

Google logo going across a smartphone screen

Use Google Flights to find out if you’re overpaying before you buy a plane ticket.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Other ways to find deals when using Google Flights

Compare flight prices between today and previous days to find out if you’re overpaying or getting the lowest price, Google advises. To do so, just search your destination to see today’s price compared to the past 12 months for similar flights. Some searches will also show if the price is predicted to change in the future.

Turn on Google Flights’ price tracking. To do so, toggle on Track prices and include your travel dates. Google will send you an email if the prices change for those selected dates. If you don’t have a specific week planned for traveling, you can select Any dates to get a notification if the price drops for flights departing in the next three to six months.

For more Google tips, check out these eight Google travel tips we found. Also, here are three Google Maps features you’ll want to try out.