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View Full Version : How far in advance do YOU buy airline tickets?


Blue32
05-17-2012, 08:19 AM
We are planning a trip from the midwest to DLR this fall(week after T-GIVING) and I am wondering when the best times to buy airline tickets are. I check multiple websites quite a bit but I am looking for opinions on when others have found their best deals for airfare. Thanks so much.

subtchr
05-17-2012, 08:39 AM
It's such a game...the airlines have us where they want us!

I usually start looking, as you do, as soon as I know I want to take a trip, up to a year out. Bing, Kayak, airfarewatchdog, all the sites have tools to try options and monitor prices.

If I see a price that I think is good during those months, I grab it and don't look back. But my experience is that it's right about 6 weeks out that if there is a deal, it's going to happen; and if not, that's when I wouldn't want to wait any longer anyway.

I know it doesn't help much, but that's my experience. Good luck!

Isatricia
05-17-2012, 08:53 AM
We usually buy several months out. We just bought tickets for the end of August (not for DLR). We usually fly Southwest since they often are the only ones that have non-stops to where we are going and if they lower their prices I can change it to the lower fare.

bibbidibobbidibecky
05-17-2012, 09:00 AM
Two months domestic, closer to three for international.

PuppyPrincess
05-17-2012, 10:03 AM
I have mine already for October for WDW going from Phila to MCO. I paid 260 RT and got the times I wanted, leaving early and coming home late. The price right now for these flights is over 600. Of course I always check to see if I got deal or not. The flight returning only had 10 available seats out of about 100 so I knew that flight would not get any cheaper. In fact that flight along for one way is 452. It's usually a guessing game. I am also watching flights from Allentown, PA to WDW in Dec and right now am seeing RT for about 275, which isn't bad and will save me an hours ride, getting my preferred times. I could have gotten cheaper prices had I traveled at different times of days. Depends what you want.

KittyKat1978
05-17-2012, 10:25 AM
I keep an eye on the prices and when they go down, I buy. I also already have my tickets for my Oct trip.

Kittyskyfish
05-17-2012, 10:31 AM
Coincidence! I'm in the midwest too and also going the week after Thanksgiving! :)

My technique is to purchase early, have a target budget amount per ticket and watch the fares. I'm flying from Cleveland and I'm happy with tickets below $300, so I purchased last week when United hit $291. They may go lower but usually it's not by that much more.

I also like to purchase early because that helps me pay off the trip before I go. Like you, I have a trip within weeks of Christmas and it makes a huge financial difference to get these expenses out of the way by the end of summer and not have to spend thousands concurrently with other holiday travel, gift, and food expenses. (We charge and pay our cards off each month and I hate to see a billing statement go over $1,000.)

brenda1966
05-17-2012, 10:33 AM
I just bought tickets for October as well. I saw a small price dip, and I really liked the flight times, so I booked.

This last spring break I ended up waiting to book airfare and it was brutal waiting. The stress, watching flights I wanted start to fill up and the prices go up. So, I tend to book earlier rather than later.

Mommy2PrincessAbby
05-17-2012, 10:42 AM
We have ours for December already... sometimes right at the 330 day mark (the earliest most airlines will sell tickets) it is the best deal you'll see... I used some miles this time--got the flights I wanted by booking so early, and the 3 of us are flying on alaska RT for $100 pp. Thats a better deal by about $18 pp I've ever gotten, even when they run the sales.

sweethannah
05-17-2012, 11:07 AM
I'm going in late September and I booked a little over a month ago.

I found a price I like, booked it and was able to hold it for a week. During that week I found a better price, into Orange Country instead with our preferred airline so I cancelled one and booked and paid for the other.

I'm not comfortable waiting until 6 weeks before departure to book, I used to be a travel agent and airfares are so finicky... they might be cheaper then but there is just as much chance that they'll be more expensive or only have inconvenient flight times left available.

Peace of mind counts for something !

DisneytheKid
05-17-2012, 11:51 AM
I'm not comfortable waiting until 6 weeks before departure to book, I used to be a travel agent and airfares are so finicky... they might be cheaper then but there is just as much chance that they'll be more expensive or only have inconvenient flight times left available.

Peace of mind counts for something !

I couldn't agree with you more. Thats one of the areas that I have already taken care of for our trip in December. I'd much rather have the times I want at a good price than chance possibly have a slightly better price at times that just don't work for us.

ZanderMan
05-17-2012, 12:09 PM
Did you know that you can actually shop too early for airline tickets?

It turns out airlines don’t start releasing cheaper seats until 3-4 months before departure for domestic travel and conversely 4-5 months before international travel. Always check Tuesday after 3pm for cheapest fairs and Wednesday to Wednesday are usually cheapest travel times.

I found 90 days in advance is perfect for purchashing tickets.

todzwife
05-17-2012, 12:17 PM
Southwest doesn't even have their schedule up for that week yet...I've been checking because we'll be there that week too!

sweethannah
05-17-2012, 12:19 PM
That wasn't my particular experience but things change I suppose.

With that said, I'm traveling with a tour company that offers a fare guarantee - if the package price for my trip is reduced outside of 21 days before departure I can cancel and rebook at the lower rate without penalty. I've been checking a couple of times a week to see if the price has dropped and so far it's gone up about $350.00 for our family.

And I'm traveling a wed-wed :p

ValpoCory
05-17-2012, 12:26 PM
Did you know that you can actually shop too early for airline tickets?

It turns out airlines donít start releasing cheaper seats until 3-4 months before departure for domestic travel and conversely 4-5 months before international travel. Always check Tuesday after 3pm for cheapest fairs and Wednesday to Wednesday are usually cheapest travel times.

I found 90 days is perfect for purchashing tickets.

This.

ValpoCory
05-17-2012, 12:27 PM
Southwest doesn't even have their schedule up for that week yet...I've been checking because we'll be there that week too!

June 4th is when Southwest Airlines releases new flights, IIRC.

torene03
05-17-2012, 01:03 PM
We usually buy several months out. We just bought tickets for the end of August (not for DLR). We usually fly Southwest since they often are the only ones that have non-stops to where we are going and if they lower their prices I can change it to the lower fare.

I LOVE Southwest! I bought my tickets last year almost six months in advance...and then probably changed them six more times when the prices kept dropping :) Granted they just racked up points instead of money, but I'm pretty sure I'll use them towards another flight.

canadian_ehngel
05-17-2012, 01:05 PM
We're going mid October, and just bought our airline tickets (and booked the hotel) yesterday. I would have done it earlier if I'd gotten my way lol.

VanRy5
05-17-2012, 01:10 PM
We bought our tickets 3 weeks ago (we are going in September). I am glad we did, as one of the flights went up 20 dollars per ticket, which ends up being an extra 100 dollars for my family of 5. I also wanted to make sure we got in by the afternoon that first day so we had time to swim and relax. Last year when we went in May, I waited and ended up with times that I hated (we got in late and had to leave super early in the morning on the way home), so I wanted to make sure that didn't happen again this time. I am sooo excited to be going again!! Almost to the 100 day chain countdown!!

canadian_ehngel
05-17-2012, 01:12 PM
.

SpaceTraveler
05-17-2012, 03:46 PM
Did you know that you can actually shop too early for airline tickets?

It turns out airlines donít start releasing cheaper seats until 3-4 months before departure for domestic travel and conversely 4-5 months before international travel. Always check Tuesday after 3pm for cheapest fairs and Wednesday to Wednesday are usually cheapest travel times.

I found 90 days in advance is perfect for purchashing tickets.

I work in the travel industry and confirm this as well. Airlines generally slowly raise their prices throughout the week. Mondays are when they check seat availability and determine how many more tickets they need to sell. Tuesdays are when the lower prices to sell those tickets go into effect. As a general rule, book air travel on Tuesday evenings and avoid flying on Fridays, Sundays, and Mondays.

Carolynleanne
05-17-2012, 05:07 PM
Usually we book 6-8 months in advance :)

ourpartyofsix
05-17-2012, 05:25 PM
I've been wondering about this, as well. We're also out of the Midwest, heading to WDW the week after Thanksgiving, and right now airfare is around $400 per person, 2x as much as when we flew in 2010! I am going to wait at least until Southwest comes out with their schedule. Hoping to get more like $300 per person, if possible, though less would be amazing.

Blue32
05-17-2012, 05:58 PM
Thanks for all the replies. I will keep a close eye on prices now then. I am not real comfortable waiting until weeks before so I may try to find something soon that falls in our budget. One advantage we have is that we are about an equal distance from Des Moines(IA), Milwaukee, and Chicago so we could really fly out of anyone that has the best price.

kailuagirl
05-17-2012, 07:17 PM
I start looking as soon as I know when we want to go. We have gone the past 2 Thanksgivings and I have found that airfare is best around August for that time from where we are. I think you just have to keep checking everyday and as soon as you see a great price, buy it! Airfares are so expensive now and they go up so fast and never come back down. We were hoping to go next week and looked for 6 months and never got a good rate, so we aren't going, wahhhhh

Good luck getting a great rate!!

Davids-Coco
05-18-2012, 12:24 AM
Usually opening week. I watch and check for price drops and make sure to do my guarantee credit thing if they drop.

Blue32
05-18-2012, 08:47 AM
I LOVE Southwest! I bought my tickets last year almost six months in advance...and then probably changed them six more times when the prices kept dropping :) Granted they just racked up points instead of money, but I'm pretty sure I'll use them towards another flight.

So... how does Southwest work as far as rebooking? You can rebook for a lower price? Or do you have to keep buying new tickets or what?

Isatricia
05-18-2012, 10:04 AM
So... how does Southwest work as far as rebooking? You can rebook for a lower price? Or do you have to keep buying new tickets or what?

You can rebook. Unless you purchased a refundable fare, you won't get a refund but will get a credit on a future flight. We use this technique all the time.

rramstad
05-18-2012, 12:30 PM
I will give my anecdote, apparently I've been overanalyzing and/or didn't have my act together, saw a great fare last night, discussed with my wife and my mom, and went to book it this AM less than 10 hours later, and wham, it's gone, $40 more per ticket times five. Ugh!

This is for a flight about 45 days out. Normally I find right now is really the sweet spot, from 45 to 30 days out, but obviously July 4th is a major holiday and we're in an awkward spot where probably a lot of people are trying to get their plans together so flights are starting to fill up, hence the odd jump in price, probably.

Know what you want, and when you get it, take it!

SeattleRedBear
05-18-2012, 12:43 PM
Good advice so far. I also use some airline price tracking services with alerts (bing travel). Also check the ticket change policy for airlines and rewards programs you use. I'm gold-level with Alaska Airlines and there's no service charge for itinerary changes, so typically I buy a ticket as soon as I have the dates figured out, then use <http://lmoffice.com/FlightTracker/> to track price changes on the purchased flight. Over the years, I've racked up a couple hundred dollars worth of credit (Alaska Air credits (not reimburses) the difference).

But the advice others have given about when to purchase is spot on.

Isatricia
05-18-2012, 12:49 PM
Keep in mind when watching airline prices that when you use services like Expedia or Travelocity (and others), fares for Southwest will not come up. I think there are several others that do not use the same system as well. It has also been my experience that most travel agents will not look at Southwest either.

brenda1966
05-18-2012, 01:19 PM
Know what you want, and when you get it, take it!

Too true!

I try to do a bit of homework in advance, see what flight times are available, look at other dates and see what the fare are so that I know if I'm seeing reasonable rates or good deals. I also take into account if I'm flying during a holiday or during a week where every school district in the area has spring break as the airlines know that demand will be high and flights will fill up faster and rates will be higher. Buying airfare is as much an art as it is a science. :)

kayleigh83
05-18-2012, 02:25 PM
I can't speak from long experience since this is actually the first flight I arranged myself, but I had been periodically checking prices for non-stop flights for several months, and for a specific time range too. Two weeks ago I noticed that the price had dropped by around $300, so I snapped it up quick! That's for late July.

Jennifer2983
05-18-2012, 03:22 PM
I bought my tickets for July in the beginning of March is that helps....I think they r cheaper that way anyways you have more choices on times and web fair

http://www.myvacationcountdown.com/tickers/g06w4s4ojqonqfxw.png (http://www.myvacationcountdown.com/)

Beee
05-18-2012, 04:42 PM
A bit different for us as we fly from such a long way and only one airline flies direct to LA...We are going in December so I thought there would be no cheap flights so I booked last month when we had decided on the dates and it cost us $NZ7600 (approx $US5500). Turns out I should have waited a month and I could have saved a couple of thousand dollars :sad1: admittedly that was via Hawaii so not direct to LA (we are stopping in Hawaii on the way home anyway) but for that kind of saving I would have sucked it up and spent a bit of extra time traveling....I knew this was going to happen but I just couldn't bear the thought of waiting potentially months to book only to find nothing cheaper had come up and prices had gone up for such a big trip. When we fly to Australia (which is only a 3hr flight and there are quite a few airlines competing for your $$) I am happy to wait until a couple of months out and just stalk the airline websites and jump on a deal when something comes up or delay the trip if there isn't a deal. I guess it really depends on what you are comfortable with doing and how much you've got invested in the trip - I wanted to get on with organising and booking other things and didn't want to do that until the flights had been booked so was willing to take a hit...still hurts and I'm wondering why on earth I looked (what we don't know doesn't hurt us!) :confused3

torene03
05-18-2012, 09:56 PM
So... how does Southwest work as far as rebooking? You can rebook for a lower price? Or do you have to keep buying new tickets or what?

You can rebook. Unless you purchased a refundable fare, you won't get a refund but will get a credit on a future flight. We use this technique all the time.

Yes, rebooking with Southwest is pretty simple. In my case, both the flight there and back changed once, but after that only the flight there decreased. It was great to be able to rebook each part of the flight as the price dropped.

rramstad
05-18-2012, 10:01 PM
For the curious, I'm going through a bit of a horror story with our attempt to go to Disneyland in July. We've been trying to find flights that work and aren't too expensive, and every time we settle on something, the price jumps, and something else is cheaper... but then we decide on that, and the price on that has jumped too. Now we've got Disneyland tickets jumping in price Sunday, just to make things REAALLY confusing and difficult. My wife is having to talk me off the ledge...

I think my mistake is having too many people in the loop. When I see something that I think works, I can't just buy it, I have to ask around and make sure it works for everyone. I probably should have gotten a more comprehensive calendar / set of guidelines so I could operate more independently.

Grrrr!

lwilkison
05-19-2012, 12:03 PM
We are planning a trip from the midwest to DLR this fall(week after T-GIVING) and I am wondering when the best times to buy airline tickets are. I check multiple websites quite a bit but I am looking for opinions on when others have found their best deals for airfare. Thanks so much.

We are flying from Vancouver, BC, to Los Angeles, CA and we usually buy around 3 months in advance but start watching right as soon as we are thinking about going that way when we see the deals we can get our tickets for about $300 RT. We have been planning our trip since January 2012.

Good luck with the airlines and getting a deal...:wave2:

rramstad
05-19-2012, 06:20 PM
For the curious, my story has a happy ending, I managed to find a flight that works for my budget and only have to spend about an extra 1:30 travel time by accepting one stop with a 45 minute layover... Very relieved, but I could have had non stops if I had been better prepared about 10 days ago when I first started looking. If I had known what I wanted and what I was willing to pay for it, this would have been over in the first couple of days.