Hands Down, These Are the Best Times to Book Flights for Cheap Travel

Updated 09/12/17
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Besides the actual experience of traveling, there's nothing more fulfilling than planning a trip and solidifying your plans by clicking that "Buy Tickets" button. The next-best feeling? Whether you're simply crossing state lines or heading to an international island paradise, there's nothing like knowing that you scored a great deal—which also requires knowing the exact best times to book flights.

It's commonly known among travel pros that the magic time to buy is Tuesdays at 3 p.m. ET, when many airlines often match the sale prices of their competitors. "Airlines typically launch sales late Monday or very early the next day, and we start seeing them Tuesday morning," according to Fare Compare. However, Condé Nast Traveler points out that the best time to book plane tickets also varies on what season you're looking to travel, and that weekends are "generally a good time to buy, but not Fridays, since there's an uptick then in business travel bookings." The travel site adds that by following that rule of thumb, you can save over 30% on flights to Europe and 17% on flights within the U.S.

There are also prime booking windows for specific destinations that'll help you snag the best travel discounts. As Cheap Air discovered during a recent study, prices for domestic fights are the least expensive anywhere between three weeks to three and a half months in advance, while prices decrease for international flights at least two months before you travel. It's also worth noting that there's a difference between the day of the week that you purchase your ticket versus the day that you fly: Cheap Air found that flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday will save you roughly $73 per ticket while taking off on a Sunday will cost you more money.

Below, we round up the ideal time frame for booking your next trip. Regardless of where and when you're traveling, here are the absolute best times to book flights.

Flights Within the U.S

The best time to buy tickets within the continental U.S. was around 54 days in advance, according to Cheap Air. Flights to Hawaii, however, were at their best prices about 99 days in advance.

Flights to North and South America

If you're jet-setting to Canada, 59 days in advance is your best bet for booking the cheapest flight, says CNBC. The time frame for buying tickets to Mexico and Central America is similar, as 61 days in advance is the optimal lead time.

For South American vacations, you'll fare best when buying 81 days in advance, CNBC says.

Flights to Europe and Asia

CNBC also notes that flight prices to Europe are at their lowest 99 days before travel, but booking can be particularly tricky if you're buying your tickets during peak times like summer holidays, Christmas, or New Year's.

If you're traveling to Asia, tickets are cheapest if they're bought around 90 days ahead of time. Flights to China, specifically, are sometimes more affordable as you get closer to the travel date as a result of an oversupply of seats, Cheap Air CEO Jeff Klee tells CNBC—so keep that in mind if you're ever considering a last-minute trip to see the Great Wall.

Flights to Africa and the Middle East

If you plan on crossing the Egyptian pyramids off your travel bucket list, know that the best time to book tickets for Africa and the Middle East is 119 days in advance, according to CNBC.

Have you discovered the best times to book flights? Share your top travel secrets in the comments.

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