What Is the Cheapest Day to Book a Flight?

Are airfares less expensive on certain days of the week? And if so, which days? Here’s what you need to know.

Is there a best day of the week to book a flight in order to get the lowest price? And if so, what is that day? Of all the travel questions I’m asked, those are the two that most frequently come up. And in these days of rapid price movements, nobody seems to have a definitive answer. But that hasn’t stopped many experts from having an informed opinion. Here’s the current thinking on the best day of the week to book a flight.

Tuesday

Popular metasearch agency Fare Compare is pretty sure that the best day of the week to book airfare is Tuesday (and to be even more specific, Tuesday around 3:00 p.m. ET). The company’s CEO, Rick Seaney, explains that airlines often start short-term airfare sales on Tuesdays, and, once one airline announces deals, competitors hop in within a matter of hours. He also notes that the buying window for these promotions is often quite short, sometimes closing before the upcoming weekend. A report from Expedia comes to the same conclusion, as does another from USA Today.

Related: The 2 Cheapest Days of the Week to Fly

Wednesday and Thursday, Too

Lifehacker says 1:00 a.m. ET on Wednesday is the best time to book airfare, but that’s probably a minor variation on the Tuesday theme. A Wall Street Journal report expands the period to Tuesday through Thursday. Both seem to reflect the same view that fare announcements come mostly on Tuesday and that many deals dry up by the weekend.

This is generally accurate, as far as it goes: Many short-lived sales are announced on Tuesdays and expire at the end of the day Thursday. But does that mean that other days offer less value when booking airfare? Not so fast!

Weekends

Texas A&M University released a report last year that contradict what the author calls the “folk wisdom” about Tuesdays. The researchers found that tickets bought on Saturdays and Sundays were about 5% cheaper, on average, than those bought on other days. But average prices may not be the right metric: What most consumers want to know is the lowest price, and average data may not correlate well with the lowest figures.

Related: When Should I Buy My Flight?

The ‘No Best Days’ Take

George Hobica, President of our sister website Airfarewatchdog, argues that there really isn’t a best day. Fares move too fast to fall into a set pattern. Instead, his primary recommendations are: (1) to keep searching, (2) to sign up for as many airfare bulletins and alerts as possible, and (3) to pounce when you find what looks like a good deal.

As long as you’re looking out less than a week in advance, U.S. rules require that an airline give you a 24-hour period to lock in a good deal while continuing to search for a better one. Sounds like a really good strategy. I add only that once you find what looks to you like a good deal, don’t obsess over the possibility that someone else might find a better one. Chances are the difference, if any, will be small, and not big enough to cause buyers’ remorse.

Instead, just enjoy the trip.

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By Ed Perkins

A nationally recognized reporter, writer, and consumer advocate, Ed Perkins focuses on how travelers can find the best deals and avoid scams.

He is the author of "Online Travel" (2000) and "Business Travel: When It's Your Money" (2004), the first step-by-step guide specifically written for small business and self-employed professional travelers. He was also the co-author of the annual "Best Travel Deals" series from Consumers Union.

Perkins' advice for business travelers is featured on MyBusinessTravel.com, a website devoted to helping small business and self-employed professional travelers find the best value for their travel dollars.

Perkins was founding editor of Consumer Reports Travel Letter, one of the country's most influential travel publications, from which he retired in 1998. He has also written for Business Traveller magazine (London).

Perkins' travel expertise has led to frequent television appearances, including ABC's "Good Morning America" and "This Week with David Brinkley," "The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather," CNN, and numerous local TV and radio stations.

Before editing Consumer Reports Travel Letter, Perkins spent 25 years in travel research and consulting with assignments ranging from national tourism development strategies to the design of computer-based tourism models.

Born in Evanston, Illinois, Perkins lives in Ashland, Oregon with his wife.

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