When is the best time to buy a plane ticket?

Passengers getting ready to board an Air Transat airplane in Cuba. Machado Noa/LightRocket for Getty Images

With airlines increasingly charging for things like food and checked luggage, everyone would love to save a little on the airfare.

And when it comes to booking a ticket online, the exact timing of your purchase can make a big difference.

Here are some tips for finding the best deal, taken from a 2015 report produced jointly by Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Corporation – an airline research and data firm. All of these numbers are based on averages, so they certainly don’t preclude finding a great deal outside these dates.

1. Buy at least 21 days in advance

According to the Expedia-ARC report, travellers can save between 20 and 31 per cent on flights from North America by buying at least 21 days in advance of their trip. Flights within North America are on the higher end of that scale.

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2. But if you can, buy even earlier

The very best time to buy a ticket for a flight within North America is 57 days in advance, according to the report. Buying 180 days in advance will get you a roughly average ticket price then prices slowly fall until about day 57 before beginning to slowly rise again. Prices shoot up at about the 21-day mark, so don’t leave it too late.

Ticket prices over time. "Preparing for Takeoff" report ARC/Expedia, December 2015

And if you’re hoping to fly to an international destination, consider buying even earlier than that: 176 days for a flight from North America to Europe, 77 days for a flight to the Caribbean, 160 days for Asia, and 144 days for Africa and the Middle East.

3. Don’t buy on a Friday

According to the analysis, Fridays are the most expensive time to buy a ticket. And although it’s sometimes said that Tuesdays are the best day of the week to buy plane tickets, the report found that in 2015, weekends were actually a little better.

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However, ARC notes that because most leisure flights are bought on a weekend, and most business flights are bought during the week, this could skew their numbers somewhat. Business travel tends to be more expensive simply because tickets are often bought on shorter notice, which would bump the weekday average up a bit. They suggest that if you see a great deal, grab it – no matter the day of the week.

4. Consider bundling a plane ticket with a hotel and rental car

Expedia data shows that by buying a plane ticket, hotel and rental car at the same time, customers saved an average of US$226 (about $303 Canadian), but often found even better deals. This was especially true of resort destinations in the Caribbean, Mexico and Hawaii.

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