Though we suggest booking international travel two to six months in advance (when you're most likely to find the best deal), we understand that this isn't always feasible. Some visitors tend to keep rigid itineraries at arm's length and embrace serendipity, while others may need to scramble a trip together at the last minute to cope with a crisis.
- We've said it before, but it bears repeating: booking a flight at the last minute isn't always cheaper. Yes, last-minute tourists used to be able to find fares so cheap that they were shocked, but that is no longer the case.
- Airlines used to regard every vacant seat on takeoff as a possible revenue loss. However, as pricing algorithms have become more sophisticated and forward-thinking, airlines have discovered that raising fares and exploiting international visitors eager to pay full price for a last-minute or even same-day flight makes them more money.
- For the most part, the days of ridiculously cheap last minute flights have passed us by.
- So, what does this mean for the adventurous traveler who despises planning or the planner who unexpectedly wants to fly around the country to see a sick relative? It means you'll either have to accept higher fares or try to plan ahead as much as possible.
What is the best time to book a flight?
Some experts would have you believe that there are specific months, days, and even hours of the day that you can book to save money, but as any Cheap Flights participant knows, airfare offers appear year-round, every day of the week, and at all times of the day—even if those deals don't always include the destination you need.
- The best offers on international fares are usually found 2-6 months before your trip (though you can start searching earlier if you're travelling during peak season or on a holiday). Domestic flights have a window of 1-3 months. Of course, none of those is really "last minute flights.’’
- Don't despair if you're looking for a vacation but have already missed the best time. If you travel during off-peak hours, you might be able to find a good deal as little as six weeks before your flight, but the closer you get to your departure date, the less likely you are to find a good deal. About 2-3 weeks before departure, prices begin to rise dramatically. Last minute deals are much cheaper if you follow all the guidelines properly.
- I have to fly to attend a funeral or visit a sick relative. What are flights for bereavement?
- Many of us who don't live close to our families understand that if the unexpected happens, we'll have little option but to fly—and funerals are seldom scheduled months in advance.
Some airlines used to sell "bereavement fares" for just such occasions; these fares weren't really dirt cheap, but they weren't the usual high last-minute price, either. Just a few airlines sell bereavement fares these days, and they aren't always the cheapest, so it's still a good idea to do your own research and compare rates. The discount is taken from a higher fare class, not the cheapest fare available, for bereavement fare pricing, and you may find you can get a better deal on your own.