USA Today featured a great article about the best time to snag the best deal on a flight.
For example, you’ll need to book a flight for the Fourth of July at least 2 months in advance for the best deal. But for Labor Day, the best deals tend to show up almost 3-4 weeks in advance instead. That’s because by Labor Day, kids have all gone back to school, whereas over Fourth of July, their whole family is in the air. But if you wait until the very last minute, like a week before, the tickets will inevitably rise up again.
And because of the recession, people hesitate before booking expensive destination trips. Those who book, do so well in advance. You’re taking a bigger chance, but if you’re willing to, you might be lucky to score a better price closer to the departure date than way back when. People are less likely to book flights late, and because fewer people are booking expensive trips, the planes aren’t filling up and the airlines start marking down their flights. Airlines also know that people with expensive vacation destinations in mind will tend to book earlier, and they’ll mark up the prices then.
Kayak offers a great historical outlook on ticket prices. Let’s say I wanted to go to Paris in September (but really, I’d like to be in Paris anytime). I enter a flight to Charles de Gaulle, some potential dates, and then it begins searching. Once inside, you click on the top left rail to “show fare charts” which will pull up a nice little chart showing that the historical lowest priced time to go Paris in September from the Washington, D.C. region is September 6-9, with another dip around September 15. It also charts the prices up until now and where they peaked and dipped. If you have a budget in mind, you can set that and a fare alert, and wait for Kayak to let you know when the fare has dropped. The only risk is it may never drop, so you’re still taking that gamble.