Saving on Airfare: The Best (and Worst) Times to Fly

No matter where you head on vacation it seems that airfare is still one of the most expensive parts of the entire trip. Even if you stick to coach (or economy), pack lightly to save on checked bag fees, and choose discount airlines you can still end up spending a fortune. However part of the problem may be the time of year you travel or even the day.

As Catey Hill of MarketWatch recently highlighted, there are several factors that can affect the price of your flight. Data compiled by Hopper.com found that, as you might expect, the cheapest days to fly were Tuesday and Wednesday. The average round-trip domestic flight at a “good deal” (the top 10% of quoted prices) for those midweek days were $241. Somewhat surprisingly Saturday wasn’t far behind with an average of $245 round-trip.

So what was the most expensive day to fly? That would be Sunday where the same trip will cost you an average of $264 — $15 more than the next most expensive days. The logic behind this is that Sunday is a day when many travelers will be heading home after vacation while business travelers may be heading out for Monday morning meetings. Combine those two predictable paths and you can see why seats on Sunday flights come at a premium.

Just as prices climb higher with the daily demand they can also vary greatly by the time of year you choose to travel. Airlines tend to start the year off right with January tickets running an average of $279, inching up to $280 in February (Valentine’s Day bump, perhaps?). Other good travel months include April ($285), October ($293), May ($300), and September ($302).

With summer vacations being an American family pastime, flight prices soar in June and July, averaging $342 and $358 respectively. Still it’s easy to understand why the single most expensive month to travel is in December. Indeed the only family tradition that surpasses summer getaways is heading home for the holidays, which is why the average flight near the year’s end goes for $360.

Speaking of the holidays, Patrick Surry of Hopper warns that other factors, such as what days holidays fall on, can negate some of the overall data. As he says, “there’s no simple rule that works every time.” That’s why it’s often best to check multiple travel date options before you book. Additionally apps like Hopper as well as many airline sites will allow you to see the various prices in a calendar view, making it easy to select your best option(s). 

If you want to save even more money it may also be worth reconsidering which airport you fly out of. Often times smaller airports that have limited routes can cost you more than larger locations or airline hubs. Granted not everyone may have this option but, if you live within a few hours of multiple airports, be sure to check and compare all of their prices just in case. Lastly you’ll always want to be sure that you look at the airline’s policies so that you know what extra fees to expect when it’s time to fly (I’m looking at you, Spirit). 

Flying may not always be the cheapest option for traveling but it’s typically the most efficient. As a result many of us are willing to pay the higher prices, but why pay more unnecessarily? If you’re flexible on your travel dates be sure to research all of your options including making adjustments to the time of the year you travel, what days you fly on, and which airports you use. Safe travels!

Author

Jonathan Dyer

I'm a small town guy living in Los Angeles looking to make solid financial decisions. I write for a number of finance websites, including HuffingtonPost and Business2Community. I founded DyerNews.com in 2015 to focus on personal finance and the emerging FinTech markets.

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