In this age of complicated airfares with multiple add-on fees, travelers agonize over finding the best price. It's no secret that flights during peak times will be more expensive than, say, flying at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning. But what about the best times to actually buy the ticket?
Articles constantly tout strategies about reserving tickets on a certain day of the week, or just after the vernal equinox or . . . whatever. There are probably more rumors circulating about getting the best deal on a plane ticket than about the existence of the Loch Ness monster. Fluctuating fares based on byzantine algorithms of flight manifests, loads, and more make it impossible to determine a "best time" to buy a ticket. Knowing that makes it easier to relax while researching airfares.
No longer restrained by timing, here are some strategies we employ when buying airline tickets:
Start with a travel search engine like Kayak.com or Skyscanner.com. Put in your itinerary, making sure to check the box for flexible travel dates. That will provide a range of prices for the route, depending on day and time of travel. Note: prices for budget airlines (including Southwest) may not be listed.
Check the same flight on the airline's website; sometimes fares are cheaper there than on the general booking sites. We prefer to buy our tickets directly from the airline rather than through a third-party service; it can come in handy if there is a schedule change or flight delay.
If you just want to get away and are feeling spontaneous, click the "Explore" box on Kayak's home page. After putting in your airport and travel time frame, it shows a global map with the cheapest prices for flying to dozens of destinations around the world.
Note that airline websites embed cookies on your computer that will lock in the price they quoted. If there's a last-minute sale or a fare war, you will not see it unless you clear your computer browsing history before starting a new search.
These tips will help in finding a cheaper ticket, but it's not worth spending hours of your time to do so. Once you've completed your research and found a price that matches your budget, buy the ticket and enjoy your trip.