Spoiler alert: there’s no magic day to buy airline tickets. But you may find a sweet spot if you learn about your desired route using Google Flights free price trackers…
It’s not Tuesday, it’s not precisely 30 days before and it’s not as soon as tickets go on sale, either. But like many things in life, if you watch – you may learn. We tracked prices to many of the most popular destinations over the last 200 days, and what we saw was fascinating, with clear patterns of when to buy the lowest airfare.
Here’s how you can learn to predict flight prices for the flights you’re interested in using Google Flights with *almost* expert precision. You’ll just need to start with one simple step: creating price alerts, which come directly into your inbox.
Tracking Flight Prices Is Free
We set price trackers using Google Flights which is the best way to get started. It’s free, it’s easy and most importantly – it’s super informative. The sooner you set price alerts, and ideally many of them, the sooner you’ll get an idea of how flight prices fluctuate.
Before we go further, it’d be wise to brush up on all the tools Google Flights offers, which can help you better predict. So before, or after reading this, be sure to read up on how to become a Google Flights wizard and unlock cool tips to find lower airfare, which will help as you start embracing your inner flight nerd.
Go on, it’s ok to be a flight nerd, especially when it saves money…
Once you get up and running, you can click on all the flights you’re tracking and you’ll instantly find a screen with graphs showing you visually how prices change over time, like watching a heartbeat.
You can click on any point on the graph to see the exact day the prices changed. By doing this, we learned some routes hardly ever change, while others look like a spiking pulse! And no, not all of them were on a Tuesday – that’s a travel myth. Below, we’ll check out some of the coolest examples…
Other than the occasional flash sale, prices don’t ever seem to fluctuate too much from Mainland USA to Hawaii. They’re relatively high and stay the same, especially from the East Coast. West Coast however can offer flash sales.
In fact, the difference in booking 30+ days in advance made only $10 difference to booking 1 day in advance. Look for this to change now, with Southwest entering the market. We’ve seen fares in the $250’s!
To switch it up a bit, we wanted to track the same route, but on slightly different dates. One set in the beginning of October and the other in late October. Whereas the early October flights stayed completely mellow and uniform, the later dates look more like a human pulse.
Every week or so, an airline would drop the prices almost $400 for a single day or two max before sending them back up higher. Basically, someone is testing whether a price drop will get you to book.
Key point: it pays to use price trackers, so you’ll get notified if one of these drops happens!
Interesting one, isn’t it? While prices were steadily low more than 42 days ago, they’ve steadily creeped up in the last few weeks – but we’re still outside the magic 30 day window for these flights. And you can see where “flash sales” come in.
For one day only, 8 days ago, prices returned back to their all time low. There’s still a lot of action left here, if you ask us…
What We Learned
Other than a one couple day blip, about 40 days prior to the flight, prices pretty much remained the same until the last minute. This is another example where leisure routes are priced high, stay high and don’t seem to budge too much. Look out for flash sales on these routes.
And definitely, definitely don’t mess around with last minute ticketing. Bali is a destination to book at least two weeks in advance – ideally at least three.
What We Learned
We already know that flash sales exist on these routes, but it was fun to watch these flights move. The best prices were right around the sweet spots between 80 and 40 days in advance. Most interestingly, someone at the airline was clearly tinkering with prices just before the 14 day advanced purchase rules hit.
This is an example where a “revenue manager”, who is the person at an airline in charge of maximizing profit for each flight might see an opportunity to sell a few extra cheap tickets first, so they can jack up the price closer to the flight date.
We honestly tracked hundreds of routes, and chose a few that highlight different patterns, but there seems to be something magic going on between 45-21 days. It seems airline begin to tinker with prices sometime around the 30 day mark, and in this case, the price jumped once inside 30 days – albeit not by much.
This fits that same idea that a revenue manager puts things on autopilot until the 30 day mark, when they begin to tinker to maximize seats filled and add extra revenue, better known as your business.
Perhaps it was a two week fare sale, or perhaps it was the news! Can the news impact prices? We actually think so after looking at this. The dates for the dip in prices happen to coincide with news that the Maldives declared a state of emergency due to a power struggle. While no one was ever in real danger, prices seem to have been!
Again, it’s that 45-25 day window…
We suggest creating alerts for flights you plan to take long in the future. Set alerts for different dates and begin to study how the prices change as the date of the flight approaches.
So, say it’s March and you want to check prices for November. Set alerts for November, set other dates for September, try setting some alerts for April as well. You may find a pattern as to when airlines put the tickets on sale, or at least when the prices will skyrocket for your route.
Best Credit Cards To Book Flights
When you’re booking travel, you always want to use a credit card, rather than a debit card. Debit cards don’t benefit from consumer protections in the event that something goes wrong, so using a credit card can be all the difference in getting your money back if an airline cancels, or goes bust, or getting nothing at all.
Be sure to use a rewards credit card that gives you points, or cash back on all flights, or rewards you with free checked bags when you fly. Airline credit cards can be great for flight perks, while bank cards can offer more rewards per point. Read up on the best card offers.