Airfare sales are cheapest in August and September, and here’s why
Even though the airline-ticketing business has become incredibly complicated in the past decades due to computer algorithms that can literally change the price for a flight several times per day, there is also a lot of research that shows us how to best take advantage of the lower prices. Not long ago we discussed that the cheapest time for airfares is 4 to 6 weeks before any given flight, and it turns out that there are two times each year where you might get an even better deal.
The keys to saving the most money mostly involve shopping for flights when most other people aren't. Many people know that Tuesdays and Wednesdays have the lowest prices because more people tend to shop and buy airfares over the weekend so all the best sales start on Monday evenings. It turns out the same is true for two parts of the year as well.
Cheapest period to buy plane tickets is late August and early September
This makes sense and is something I've suspected in the past, but now we have confirmation in the form of an insider tip mentioned in an article on the Wall Street Journal recently. Not only are many people finishing summer vacations or starting school at this time, but the autumn itself tends to be a fairly dead time of the year for trips, so airlines produce their best fare sales of the year to lure flyers.
In fact, September through November is probably the best time of year for budget travelers who have flexible schedules. You get non-scorching weather in most of the Northern Hemisphere, along with much smaller crowds than in spring or summer. Most Europeans stay home during this period, and there are no major holidays that create long weekends for anyone, so hotel prices tend to be almost as low as in the cold winter months.
The days just before and after New Years are the other best time for fare sales
A bit more surprisingly, according to that same bit of research quoted above, the few days just before and after New Years are also very slow for airline ticketing so they offer up some tempting sales then as well. That seems too early to get any decent late-spring or summer fares, but it's obviously perfect for winter trips to the Caribbean.
Best strategy: Check fares before sales start, and pounce when they appear
If you are thinking about flying somewhere between now and January, you should immediately check airfares for your preferred dates (like a Friday through the following Sunday), and also for less convenient dates, like Wednesday through Wednesday, so you know the lowest available prices.
Once you have that figure you will be ready when the fare sales suddenly appear. Way back when, many of us would find out about fare sales in the local newspaper, but now that those are disappearing it's likely the sale will just start with no notice.
For the best fares, start checking on Monday evenings in mid August and again on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. There's a very good chance that at some point you'll discover that a $400 flight is suddenly $280, and you should buy it right away. These days airlines only sell a certain number of sale seats on each flight, so once a sale starts the most convenient flights will start selling out at the lowest fare.
If you miss an August fare sale you'll probably get a similar deal in September if you keep checking, so don't give up if you miss the first one.