What do you get when you combine writing about airline travel since 2008 with a few decades of being a sarcastic chap? Unsolicited Travel Advice from David (the Editor-in-Chief of this dog and pony show) — that’s what! There are way too many travel-related click-bait stories out there that give you boring and questionable information from “experts.” This series will be different — I will give you entertaining, possibly less questionable information, while not caring about any sort of clicks or bait. Let me set the mood. Imagine that you and I are hanging out, when we have just hit upon an interesting airline/travel topic (when is the best time to buy airline tickets?) and I am fired up and ready to spew my thoughts and opinions. When I wrap up, I hope that you won’t just awkwardly stare at me, but instead continue the conversation in the comments. Let’s do this…

There are lots of seats in lots of planes out there, but tickets go fast!

There are lots of seats in lots of planes out there, but tickets go fast!

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO BUY MY AIRLINE TICKET?

Now! Crap, you just missed it… do it now! I am serious… don’t overthink this, buy them now! There are all sorts of thoughts/theories on this. Some backed with actual data, others sound more like snake oil pitches. Here are some “suggestions” that I have heard over the years:

  • Buy on a Tuesday
  • Earlier the better
  • Wait until the last minute for great deals
  • Buy on Travel Deal Tuesday (Tuesday after Thanksgiving)

Although those opinions might sound fun, I decided to search for some data to back these up. I ventured onto quite a few “legit” travel sites where there was no shortage of experts giving advice on the best time to buy airline tickets. Here is (no joke) what I found… the best time to buy a ticket before your flight: 70 days, 62 days, 90 days, 47 days, 69 days, 21 days, 110 days, 49 days, 217 days, 147 days, 50 days, 76 days, 99 days, 66 days, 94 days… I had to stop. There were more, lots more… but I could already see the total lack of trends. Or reasoning. I was starting to get the hint that there might not be some magical number, but more of people wanting you to read their story and click an ad (or two) before you leave.

Eastern Air Lines ticket from the 1950s. You waited WAAAAY too long to buy this one.

Eastern Air Lines ticket from the 1950s. You waited WAAAAY too long to buy this one.

Even if you did have a magic number, there are so many variables that can change prices; load factors, oil prices, competition, and of course my favorite… Murphy’s Law. It is a gamble and if you love the thrill of a winning streak, I will try not to judge, but I have seen enough movies to know that the house (or airlines) will always win in the long run.

I don’t use any special tricks or secrets, I just ask myself these three simple questions:

#1 Do I want to go on this trip?
#2 Do I have the money/miles to buy my airline ticket now?
#3 Will I be less happy if I do not buy them now, and the prices go up?

If I answer “yes” to most of these questions, I say the time to buy is now! Of course once I buy, there is one thing I must not do, or it could ruin EVERYTHING…

When buying airline tickets... look forward, not back!

When buying airline tickets… look forward, not back!

BUY YOUR TICKET AND DON’T LOOK BACK’¦

Do not look back. Don’t do it. Nothing good can come from it. I don’t even care that you have 24 hours to get a refund, I still don’t look. Let’s play this out.

I buy my ticket, I was happy at the time, but now I see it is $20 cheaper. I know myself, and I am not going to make this easy and just save the $20 on my ticket. Oh no. I am going to start back at square one and do all my research all over again, comparing airlines, dates, etc. Now, let’s say my hard work pays off and I find a ticket $30 cheaper overall. Who has two thumbs and is an airline ticket buying wizard? This guy! Oh, but wait. Now I have another 24 hours for a refund and I am on a money saving rush. When does it end? If you keep looking, sooner or later you won’t find a better deal, and you are likely to feel bummed.

You are better than this… buy your ticket, be happy, and don’t look back.

Related Side-Story: The Five Stages of Buying an Ultra Low Cost Carrier Ticket — Comic Style

This graph is trying to work the odds to predict the best time to buy your airline ticket - Image: Kayak.com

This graph is trying to work the odds to predict the best time to buy your airline ticket – Image: Kayak.com

RIDING THE GAMBLING WAVE

It is hard not to be tempted to play the airline pricing gamble game. I sometimes will use Kayak as a tool to look at flight options and they often will give you a recommendation to buy your ticket or to hold off “based on an analysis of current and past prices.” I tried 25 different flight/date/airport scenarios and each told me to “buy now,” because they felt the prices were going to rise. A suspicious person might think that they are just looking to sell some tickets, but I have seen other times where they suggest to hold off.

For fun (this stuff is fun to me at least), let’s pretend the above graph was reversed. That I could buy my ticket for $334 right now, but I am being told (either by Kayak, my inside guy, the stars’ alignment, etc.) that that same ticket price could be $309 if I just waited 38 days… or since we are having fun, let’s say it is only needing to wait out five days. Worth the wait? I say nay, double nay. Not only could it go up, but what if you forget and go back two weeks later and the price is way higher? Now talk about feeling like a real idiot (I am just totally guessing that is how one might feel, because I have never done something like that before… heh.)

 

From the back of the Airbus

 

TIME TO WRAP IT UP, DAVID

The best time to buy your ticket is when you are ready, and you will be happy with the results. That sounds like some after school special thing, but I stand by it. Stop chasing that one price you saw back in 2007, and just buy your tickets already, and start the next phase — finding the best airline seat and the best hotel (that right there is what I call blog foreshadowing, kids).

I am done gabbing now (I am a talker… sorry). Now, let me know what you think. Is the effort worth saving the money? Is it more about the game than the money? Do you have actual tricks you use (promise not to make fun… probably)? Have you heard of other good times to buy your ticket? Have you been burned by either buying now, or waiting? Let’s start a conversation in the comments! 

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: david@airlinereporter.com

https://www.airlinereporter.com
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3 Comments

“You are better than this…” That very good

Thanks

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