When is the best time to book flights?

Planning a holiday but don’t know when is the best time to book flights? We’ve crunched the numbers to help you find the best deals.

Woman looking for when is the best time to book flights on laptop for vacation
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Planning a holiday but don’t know when is the best time to book flights? We’ve crunched the numbers to help you find the best deals. Wherever you’re travelling, as well as booking your flight, you’ll want to find the best travel money deals, choose the right credit cards for travelling, and read our guide on how to pick a travel insurance policy that’s best suited for you. 

We all know flight prices skyrocket during peak periods, like Christmas and New Year, or for key sporting events like the Olympic Games, but is there a month when booking travel is cheaper? Or a better day for booking? 

Whether you’re planning to visit one of the most expensive cities in the world or one of the cheapest countries, it’s worth keeping an eye out for when airfare prices and demand are low. That way, you can get more for your money – making the best use of your Avios and, perhaps, even scoring the best seats on the plane. But the real question is, does the early bird actually get the worm? Is the difference in how much you pay and the convenience worth the effort? We take a look. 

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The best time to book flights 

Knowing the right time to book flights can mean you get the most bang for your buck, plus maximum comfort when travelling. But it’s not that simple. There are several variables that you need to be aware of as you book your flight.

When’s the best month to book flights? 

Online travel agency Opodo revealed to MoneyWeek that the ideal month for booking flights is September when an average flight costs £143, compared to £173 in July. Although for an average flight’s only a difference of £30, costs can add up if you’re booking for a large family, and those average flight prices will be more if you’re travelling long-haul.

Opodo’s data suggests that, for long-haul flights, prices are typically cheaper from the end of summer through to January. So if you book a flight in July, chances are that it may cost 20% more than one booked in January. 

How early should you book flights? 

According to Expedia, holidaymakers who book domestic flights about five months in advance typically save around 35% on flight prices, compared to those who wait until the last minute.

To give you an idea, if you’re jetting off to the US, booking three months ahead would cost you around £550, whereas leaving just a 15-day gap between travelling and booking flights would set you back over £700 – a saving of more than £150, just by booking in advance.

Remember, though, that airlines tend to reduce flight prices closer to the departure date if they have a lot of empty seats, so it can be a bit of a gamble depending on when you’re travelling, your destination and the season. 

According to the specialist travel rewards website The Points Guy, different criteria apply if you’re booking your flights using points and air miles, as “airlines often open award space for coveted business and first-class seats either when the schedules open or at the last minute”. 

When is the best day to book flights?

There isn’t a simple answer for knowing when the best day is to book flights, as prices depend on demand, season and other factors. 

But there is data available to make your search easier. Expedia found that travellers who booked flights on a Sunday saved up to 23% on average compared to those who booked flights on a Friday. 

This isn’t an exact science, though, and in reality, flights will be more expensive when there is more demand. and the lowest during off-peak travelling periods.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Best time to book flights to popular destinations
LocationBest month to bookHow many days in advance to bookAverage cost
PortugalJanuary6-10 £151
RomaniaJanuary26-30£227
TurkeySeptember6-10 £145
SpainNovember41-50£145
NetherlandsJanuary91-100£116
FranceSeptember11-15£132
ThailandAugust16-20£551
CyprusDecember6-10 £201
ItalySeptember31-36£141
UAEFebruary26-30£444

Source: Opodo 

How to find the cheapest flights

Booking flights may seem like the most expensive part of your trip but it doesn’t have to be. As well as knowing how to time your flight booking, we have more tips and tricks to help you find the best deals.

Track flight prices

If you’re already clear on your travel itinerary, then it’s worth using Google Flights tracker or Skyscanner Price Alerts to know when ticket prices fluctuate during those dates.That way, you can have a clear idea of when to snap up the best deals. 

You can also make use of travel price comparison websites like Kayak, Skyscanner and Booking.com to help you find cheap deals instantly. Skyscanner recently launched a Savings Generator tool to help holidaymakers discover the best time to book tickets for popular destinations. 

Use reward points 

Frequent flyers will be familiar with reward cards such as American Express credit cards or Barclaycard. These reward credit cards let you collect points and use them to cut costs on your flight prices.

If you’re travelling by British Airways, another way to pay for your flights is by using your Avios  points. That way, you bring down your flight prices to just £1. Find out how the British Airways £1 flight scheme with Avios works.  

Be flexible

While this is sometimes easier said than done, it pays to be flexible when you travel, such as choosing flights where you aren’t travelling at the weekend or at peak times, if it’s a commuter route. Shifting your schedule so you fly later or earlier around major holidays, like Easter, Christmas and avoiding school holidays can shave off a lot of money from your holiday costs.

Book a flight with a layover

If you’re booking a long-haul flight, it’s worth checking whether adding a stop or two could be a cheaper alternative. A short layover can break up the journey and allow you to stretch your legs, while a longer layover can be a great opportunity to do a whirlwind tour of a new city.  

Mix and match airports

Another trick is to choose a secondary airport – so, rather than Heathrow, you may find it cheaper to fly from Gatwick, Luton or Stansted. That way, not only can you avoid the long security queues but also cut down your flight costs. This option only really works with very well-connected cities. Otherwise, you may find yourself jetting into remote airports in the middle of nowhere and paying more for taxis to reach your destination. 

Ultimately, the best time to book flights hinges on a mix of timing, flexibility and smart planning. Whether you're planning a family vacation or a solo adventure, securing the best deals means that you can spend less on airfare and more on the experiences that make your trip memorable. 

Oojal Dhanjal
Staff writer

Oojal has a background in consumer journalism and is interested in helping people make the most of their money. Oojal has an MA in international journalism from Cardiff University, and before joining MoneyWeek, she worked for Look After My Bills, a personal finance website, where she covered guides on household bills and money-saving deals. Her bylines can be found on Newsquest, Voice Wales, DIVA and Sony Music, and she has explored subjects ranging from luxury real estate to the cost of living, politics and LGBTQIA+ issues. Outside of work, Oojal enjoys travelling, going to the movies and learning Spanish with a little green owl.