Paying too much for travel does none of these things. It’s frustrating and stressful. Plus, every dollar you spend on things like flights and hotels is one fewer dollar you have for experiences!
When it comes to saving money on travel, a little attention to timing can go a long way. Here are the best times to buy airline tickets, book hotels, and more.
The best time to buy airline tickets
There are a lot of theories out there, but the data don’t lie. The best day of the week to buy plane tickets is Sunday. This is according to a study by Expedia in partnership with industry groups.
However, CheapAir.com’s 2017 Annual Airfare Study, which analyzed almost 3 million trips, found that the specific day is less important than how far in advance you make your purchase. The “Prime Booking Window” is between 21 and 105 days (~3 weeks to 3 ½ months) out. Book earlier than that and you’ll have the most options available (non-stop flights, your choice of seats, etc.), but you’ll pay up to $50 more. Booking later than that is a crapshoot — you may find a fabulous fare, or you may wind up paying an extra $249 for a non-ideal itinerary.
Within the Prime Booking Window, there are seasonal differences in how far out you should book:
- Winter: 54 days
- Spring: 75 days
- Summer: 76 days
- Fall: 47 days
It also matters where you’re flying. For most domestic flights, you’ll find the lowest prices 54 days out (on average), while international flights are best booked 99 days in advance.
Holidays complicate matters, and the guidelines above may not apply. Skyscanner found that for travel over Thanksgiving and Christmas, the biggest savings can be found about 4 weeks in advance.
Note that the best time to buy is different from the best time to fly. Tuesday and Wednesday are the least expensive days to travel, while Sunday is the most expensive.
The best time to buy train and bus tickets
If you’re traveling by train or bus, the situation is much simpler: to get the best rates, book as early as possible. You can buy Amtrak tickets up to 11 months in advance. Taking the BoltBus? Those tickets are available 4 to 6 weeks in advance, and the first seat sold on every bus costs just $1.
The best time to book a rental car
Like train and bus tickets, rental cars are best booked as far in advance as possible. This isn’t because the prices change; it’s because the less expensive cars go the fastest. If you wait too long, an economy car might not be an option, so you might end up having to pay for a full-size instead.
The best time to book a hotel
Hotels typically have two windows where you can find the best prices: at least a month in advance and at the last minute (within 7 days).
Which approach is best depends on your trip. If you’re traveling to a popular destination during a popular time, waiting too long won’t pay off — you’ll likely find all of the affordable rooms already booked. On the other hand, if you’re traveling at an off-peak time and you have some flexibility, you could save 20% or more by waiting until the last minute, when hotels often discount their prices to avoid having empty rooms.
Hedge your bets by booking a refundable rate in advance and then checking back frequently to see if prices go down.
The best time to book a cruise
Cruises are like hotels — book at least a year in advance for the best prices and your choice of staterooms. But, if you’re a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type of person and are flexible with your dates and ports of call, you can often find excellent last-minute deals.
Start by checking out Vacations To Go’s 90-day ticker and then call your travel agent or book with the cruise line directly. They will usually be happy to match the price, and you won’t be penalized for booking through a third party.
If you’re going to try a last-minute cruise booking, be aware that doesn’t mean you can just show up at the port. Many cruises cut off reservations 1 week prior to sailing.
Whether you’re a meticulous planner or you prefer to wing it, ParkDIA always offers the same great rates. So, click here to make a reservation, or just show up for the closest, fastest, and least expensive Denver airport parking.