Travel Tips

Budget travel: When should I buy plane tickets?

October 27, 2015
traveling on a budget tip 3 centered

Last time I introduced the Kayak Explore map as a great way to find the cheapest possible tickets from your departure airport to anywhere in the world.

So, you’ve done all your research and found some great flights–awesome. But some of the most anxiety-inducing questions are always, “When should I buy plane tickets?” “Is the price going to drop?” “What if it goes up?” Rather than waiting nervously by your computer, there are some wonderful tools that can help you figure out the right time to buy.

Kayak Fare Predictor

One of the other reasons I love Kayak is that they have a fare predictor lets you know whether you should buy (because prices will be going up soon) or wait (because prices will be going down). When you run a flight search, at the top left there’s a graph that shows that particular flight’s price history over time.

Budget travel: When should I buy plane tickets? | Travel Tips

If it says “buy”, chances are good that it’s a good time to get those tickets. If it says wait, then I recommend setting up a price alert using the “Create a price alert” button, which means Kayak will email you if ticket prices drop for that particular search criteria.

Momondo Fare Insights

If you love data, then you’ll totally geek out on Momondo. When you run a flight search, there’s a little link at the top right that says “Flight Insight”:

Budget travel: When should I buy plane tickets? | Travel Tips

Brace yourself. Are you ready for this? Because the data I’m about to unleash on you is amazing.

First of all, the flight insights give you a super cool overview containing a summary with all their findings:

Budget travel: When should I buy plane tickets? | Travel Tips

But then you can dig into details, like, say, the cheapest time of year to buy your ticket (seasonality)…

Budget travel: When should I buy plane tickets? | Travel Tips

Or what airlines are cheapest…

Budget travel: When should I buy plane tickets? | Travel Tips

Or how many days before departure you should buy your ticket…

Budget travel: When should I buy plane tickets? | Travel Tips

Or even what time of day is cheapest!

Budget travel: When should I buy plane tickets? | Travel Tips

And note the awesome travel tips on the right-hand side, like:

  • Seattle to Tokyo flights are currently cheapest between 1/5/2016 and 2/5/2016
  • The best deals from Seattle to Tokyo are 2 to 4 months before departure
  • Afternoon flights are the most expensive

These all help you make decisions about when to buy your tickets and how to get the cheapest possible tickets. While I still prefer Kayak’s experience (which tells you to buy or wait), Momondo’s tools can give you the extra information you need to make an educated decision about when to fly and whether you’re getting the best possible deal.

And don’t forget… use those student and youth discounts!

If you’re a student and/or under 26 years old, you can often find discounted travel through student travel sites like STA Travel or StudentUniverse.

Note that if you book a student fare, you have to have a valid student ID (and, likewise, if you book a discounted youth ticket, your ID must prove that you’re under 26 years old.)

Budget travel: When should I buy plane tickets? | Travel Tips

But… Kimberly, when do you buy your tickets?

I try to buy my tickets anywhere from 4-12 months in advance, depending on how much advance planning I’m giving my trip and when the ideal time to buy may be. If it looks like ticket prices will go down, I set up a price alert and then bide my time. If ticket prices start going up, I might go ahead and buy my ticket sooner.

Additionally, I try to use past pricing data to figure out whether prices are really going to go down and whether it’s worth waiting.

Even so, I’ll be honest: sometimes I get anxious and decide that it’s worth paying a little more for a ticket if it means I’ll have my itinerary locked in so I can move onto other planning, like booking accommodations. Sometimes it boils down to your personal travel style–are you a plan-everything-in-advance person? Or a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type?

Regardless, it’s time to get out there and start booking some cheap tickets! Next time I’ll be back to talk about how you can live like a local to save even more money when you’re traveling. Stay tuned!


Note: I’m not affiliated with Kayak, Momondo, or other sites mentioned in this article, but I sure do like their sites and find them useful–hopefully you will, too!

Photo credit: CJS*64 A man with a camera / Foter / CC BY-ND


1 Comment

  • Reply Traveling on a budget: Live like a local - Plethora, Etc.Plethora, Etc. November 19, 2015 at 10:59 pm

    […] biding your time and buying your tickets, how do you save even more money on a trip? One of my favorite ways is to […]

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