If you’re planning on buying a plane ticket, the time you buy your ticket can make a big difference. Sometimes you can save as much as 50% off the price of your ticket simply by buying it at the right time. In ticket timing, there seems to be two primary trains of thoughts: Buy them well in advance, or buy them as close to the flight as possible. Which is better?
An Overview of How This Works
There are two reasons why prices fluctuate as the flight date gets closer.
First of all, when you buy tickets a long way out, airlines try to make the ticket cheaper for you because they want to be able to gauge their ticket’s demand early on. Having half the plane booked two months in advance allows them to relax. If they have no bookings as it comes closer, they know they need to do some marketing.
The second reason why airline tickets change in prices as the date gets closer is simply because the moment a flight takes off, the value of any unsold tickets suddenly becomes zero. In other words, there comes a point close to the departure time of a plan flight when suddenly it’s in the airline’s interest to drastically lower the price.
You’ll tend to notice two trends if you watch a plane’s price over time. The most common pattern is that it’s inexpensive three or more weeks out. As the flight date gets closer, the price of a ticket goes up as seats fill up.
The second pattern however is that the seat prices may remain constant, or even slightly drop as the date gets closer. There might even be a sharp drop as it gets to the week of the flight. This is the pattern for flights that airlines are having a hard time filling up.
What You Need to Know About Last Minute Tickets
When you buy a last minute ticket, you can often get a very good deal. However, you can’t always predict when you’ll be able to get a last minute ticket. Sometimes last minute tickets are very expensive, if a plane is nearly booked out.
If you don’t care too much about where you end up, you can try deal watching. There are unfilled seats every day. Just snap up a last minute deal if and when one pops up. You won’t have much say over the destination, as these tickets are a little random, but it’s a fantastic way to have a cheap getaway.
In other words, booking last minute tickets is a bit of a coin flip. You’re hoping you get the deal of a lifetime, but you won’t even know if you have a ticket until a few days before your trip. It’s great for people who can leave on a dime, especially to a random destination, but not the best idea for people who need to plan.
What You Need to Know About Buying in Advance
Generally, the further ahead you buy your tickets the better. The cheapest tickets come when you buy about two or three months in advance, although you can get cheap tickets as much as 3 weeks before your trip.
The great benefit of buying tickets in advance is that you’re guaranteed an affordable ticket. You know you have a spot on the plan. The downside is that it’s inflexible: You have to know exactly when you want to travel. If you need added flexibility, you can always buy a cancellation policy for your ticket.
So What’s the Verdict?
If you know that you’ll want to go “somewhere” on a certain date and just want a cheap flight, you can absolutely wait until the last minute. Use last minute deal finders to find last minute deals. Browse the destinations and select the destination you want to go to.
However, if you have a specific destination you want to go to on a specific date, you’re better off planning in advance and buying your ticket as early as possible. This will guarantee you a spot on the plane and guarantee that you pay a good price. It’s very rare that a last minute ticket will be cheaper than a ticket bought 2 or 3 months in advance.