Frequent Flyer Club

The Cheapest Time of Year to Book Summer Flights? It's Right Now.

lisbon, portugal
lisbon, portugal | Jorg Greuel/Getty Images
lisbon, portugal | Jorg Greuel/Getty Images

Even though you just finished your taxes and you’re still finding sand from spring break in your laundry, now’s the week to start planning summer vacations. Maybe you didn’t get hyped about crazy-cheap fares to Europe, and figured you’d wait until it stopped ice storming to consider your warm-weather plans. But start now. Because according to experts, the week of April 23 is the cheapest time of year to book summer travel.

“Hold up!” you say. “Didn’t every travel hack story I ever clicked say the 21 to 45 days is the best time to book airline tickets?”

Yes, yes it did. And that is still a good general guideline. But just like any general guideline, it’s also not inviolable. It happens, in this case, that when folks at metasearch app Hipmunk crunched a ton of numbers, they found that flights departing in June, July, and/or August, were cheapest when booked this week.

So call a family meeting, get on the group chat, or consult absolutely no one if you prefer to travel alone. It’s time to make your summer plans, or risk paying through the nose.

Squamish, British Columbia, Canada
Squamish, British Columbia, Canada | totororo/getty images

How much money am I saving by booking this week?

OK, so maybe you won’t be paying through the nose. Maybe just through some very enlarged pores. Hipmunk found the week of April 23 shows a 12% savings across the board on domestic airfares. That number goes up to 14% savings on flights booked this week for Fourth of July weekend, and 16% for Memorial Day.

“After the 23rd, you’ll see prices start to rise steadily,” says Kelly Soderlund, the Hipmunk analyst responsible for this research. “It continues up to about mid-June, which has the highest booking rate. Then prices start to dip back down into July.”

The next-cheapest week to book: July 30, she said. Although by that point, you’re already seeing back-to-school ads on TV.

River Hongbao
River Hongbao, Singapore | Andrew JK Tan/Getty Images

So where are the cheapest flights going to be?

Hipmunk found so far in 2018, international flights were up slightly from the same period last year, but certain cities were seeing big price drops. Singapore, for example, has welcomed new routes from LAX on United Airlines and is down 30% versus this time last year. Music haven Hamburg, Germany also saw prices drop. As did Fukuoka, Japan, a city getting its first international flights in several years on Vanilla Air. (See if you can fly from there to Oshawa, Ontario for the best airport code combination of all time.)

On the domestic side, Soderlund said she found airfare to San Antonio to be down the most this year, with an 18% drop. That’s followed by Madison, Wisconsin; Syracuse, New York; and, surprisingly Austin, with flights 8% cheaper than in 2017.

Why are flights cheaper this week?

Asking the reasons behind airfare fluctuations is kinda like asking why some days traffic is light and some days it crushes your soul. There are many reasons and no reasons, and sometimes it’s just best to sit back and enjoy the journey. That Zen moment aside, Soderlund says it has a lot to do with people not yet pondering summer travel.

“If you’re looking to book in August, April seems really far away,” she says. “But this is a good chunk of time -- about eight weeks before the official start of summer -- and a big enough cushion before prices really start to rise.”

If you miss this golden savings opportunity, the rule of 21 days out holds true for cheapest fares through most of summer. So you might want to wait a minute on that August expedition on the off chance you can’t get everyone in your group chat to agree on destinations and dates in the next week.

Even though it’s allegedly spring and you may be staring out your window at something you really hope isn’t freezing rain, this may be the perfect time to start planning your summer vacation. Thanks to the magic of technology -- and people whose job it is to use it to your advantage -- you can save some serious cash if you book your summer travel this week. Just don’t use it as an excuse to stop cleaning the sand out of your suitcase.

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Matt Meltzer is a contributing writer to Thrillist. Follow him on Instagram @meltrez1.