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When’s the best time to buy a plane ticket?

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When it comes to flying on a budget, winging your plans won’t cut it. Travelling takes lots of prep time, and while some frugal flyers try to be stingy once they land, the biggest savings rely on when you choose to fly. Here’s how to nab the perfect vacation without breaking the bank. Have bargain, will travel!

Buy eight weeks in advance

Fifty-four days in advance, to be exact. After analyzing nearly 3 million flights, Cheap Air found the perfect time to book was 54 days before your trip. Miss out on the lucky number? If you buy within the “prime booking window,” which is three weeks to three and a half months in advance, you’ll still be paying a low fare.

Whatever you do, avoid booking when fares are at their steepest: when flights are first announced, and the two weeks right before takeoff.

Buy bundles

Flyers who book their car and hotel accommodations at the same time can save big. A joint study by Expedia and Airlines Reporting Corporation revealed that those who bought travel packages could save upwards of $303 on their trip. Savings get better at resort destinations like Mexico and the Caribbean, where travellers can save up to $1,475.

Make friends

A friend with cheap flights is a friend indeed. One such friend is Chris Myden, who runs YDeals. As the best source for Canadian flight deals, travellers from most major cities across the nation can keep up with budget-friendly flights as they are announced. Some even have Facebook groups, like Toronto-based YYZ Deals and its Vancouver counterpart YVR Deals. Other places to look for cutting flight expenses or frequent flyer tips include online communities like Reddit’s r/flights subreddit and FlyerTalk.

Try a budget airline (at your own risk)

Discount airlines are giving the major carriers a run for your money; as CBC News reports, airlines like WOW Air are offering Canadian passengers cheap flights with no-frills service.
The bad news: beware hidden fees. Some airlines charge a premium on extra baggage, insurance, and in-flight food. Others may have cheap one-way flights, but exorbitant return trips. If comfort is a priority, budget airlines usually skimp on anything but the essentials and are farther from major cities.

Take advantage of destination deals

There’s a reason Iceland is a destination darling. With cheap flights as the draw, the once isolated European nation mesmerizes visitors with gorgeous natural scenery and volcanic action. Like-minded nations, such as Sri Lanka, are ramping up their tourism efforts by offering savings for frugal flyers, in the hopes that you’ll spend dollars sightseeing. Gambling and resort cities are especially cheap to visit, counting on visitors having a good time to bolster their businesses.

Who you are helps too. Seniors and students can nab exclusive rates with agencies.

Travel to the right place…

Depending on what kind of traveller you are, the top budget-friendly countries to visit this year can be tailored to your personality, Forbes reports. Morocco makes for a romantic getaway because of its local wine scene and affordable resorts. Eco warriors will love Costa Rica’s cheap public transit and striking wildlife scampering in its national parks. For the hungry and adventurous, Vietnam’s cheap mouth-watering eats and street tours are bar none. 

…at the right time

Valentine’s Day in Hawaii sound good? For flexible flyers, travelling at certain times of the year can drop prices. Travel and Leisure states that Honolulu hotels charge up to 40 per cent less in February. And if you’ve ever wanted to visit Disneyland, booking for Orlando in September will be cheapest since kids will be in school by then.

Look out for flights taking place immediately after domestic holidays or months where countries don’t have any big celebrations planned. Weather’s important too: South Asia’s monsoon season or Australia’s balmy winter in July can make for a cheap visit, without the bustle of other tourists.

Originally posted on July 21, 2017.