Industry insights on how to find cheap flights
Industry insights on how to find cheap flights

We’re all searching around for the best flights, no matter where or when we’re going. Maybe we know a few tips and secrets we’ve learned along the way that help us uncover a great fare once in a while, but more often than not, it’s a total crap shoot whether you get a good deal or not. I think we can contribute that to the loads of airfare myths flying around out there, leading us to believe things like clearing browser cache will actually result in a cheaper fair, and the only time to book is Tuesday morning.

Despite what you’ve heard in the past from travel gurus and bloggers, there’s only one way to be really sure you’ve got the most up-to-date info on how to find cheap flights and that’s by way of industry insights. Many airlines and onling booking sites perform annual flight studies, which compile and analyze historical data to make predictions for the upcoming year. (For insights on booking summer airfare, check out this Tailwind study.)

Other ways for savvy travelers to find the best airfare is to use a flight predictor. While flight predictors haven’t been proven to work, they do offer more industry insight to travelers who are hoping to make assumptions about flights that will help them save money.

Lastly, we recommend setting up flight alerts to track dips in fare for specific routes you’re interested in. Alerts can be highly valuable if you’re ready to buy and can jump on a deal as soon as it surfaces.

Flight Studies for 2017

Momondo uncovered three very important tips in their study for 2017 that you should keep in mind when booking your airfare. The results were calculated by examining their 100 most popular routes. It all comes down to these three things: When to fly, what day to fly and what time to fly.

When to Fly to Find Cheap Flights

According to the flight study, there actually is a “best time” to book your airfare. I always tend to forget the number of days in advance I’m told is the best time to book, but that’s probably a good thing anyway, because the amount of days in advance to book in 2017 has changed over 2016, by three days. The new best time is 56 days in advance of travel.

What Day to Fly

You’ve heard the same old rumors I have about what day is best to book airfare. This study makes no mention of there being a “best day” to book, but it does show that Tuesday is the best day to fly. If you consider that most business travelers fly out on a Monday and return on a Friday, while most leisure travelers fly out on a Thursday and return on Sunday, those days are obviously out, leaving Tuesday and Wednesday as the best flying days to find cheap flights for. According to the survey, Saturday is actually the worst day to fly for cheap airfare.

What Time to Fly

Can you believe you can actually save money by flying at a specific time of day? It does make sense that evening is the cheapest time to fly, because no one likes a red eye flight. That’s really good news for me, because I hate early morning flights. For long-haul flights, I think flying out on an evening flight makes the trip so much easier, because you know you’ll be asleep for at least part of the long flight, and you’ll arrive in your destination having gotten at least a bit of sleep, rather than being exhausted.

You can find more useful flight information about the actual route you plan to take by running a flight search on momondo.com, then clicking Flight Insights on the results page.

Another recent study by Expedia Inc. and Airlines Reporting Corp. (ARC) claims that “falling ticket prices and surging capacity” will make for some great travel deals for consumers in 2017.

They also predicted a few things based on worldwide flight data from 2016 that travelers can use to find the best airfare.

What Day to Purchase

A recent study by Expedia Inc. and Airlines Reporting Corp. (ARC) says the lowest ticket prices on average were bought on weekends more than 21 days in advance, with Sunday being the best day. To be exact, Expedia found tickets booked from the U.S. on Sundays to be 11% cheaper than other days. That could be because cheaper class flights for leisure travel tend to be purchased on the weekends, while more expensive business travel is booked during the week. Whether booking on a Sunday will result in a cheaper ticket for you, then, is unlikely.

Saturday Night Layover

This is one of the trends we’ve been hearing about for a while now, so perhaps it has some real weight behind it. The expedia study shows that the best ticket prices still have a Saturday night layover included in them. This has always been good news for the typical traveler who takes a week off work and includes weekends to extend their travel. Leaving before Saturday can potentially save you some money.

The study found that in Southern Europe, building in a Saturday night stay saves travelers an average of 57% on the cost of the flight. But it doesn’t always work that way. In Northern Asia and China, the Saturday night trick doesn’t net any savings. You also have to take into account the fact that in many areas, hotel rooms are more expensive on Saturday night, thus adding to the overall cost of the trip. So in the long run, it might not save you anything.

Combine Flight & Hotel

There’s no wonder Expedia makes a big push for you to book your flight and hotel at the same time. The study shows that you can save significantly by doing this. I was booking a flight within Europe recently and the booking tool showed me that I could save 100% on my flight by booking it together with my hotel. This is because the savings of booking them together was equal to or more than the cost of the flight alone. Travelocity is one booking tool that promotes these deals under their Travel Deals section. Or you can run a Google search for it and see which aggrevators are making that claim.

Using a Flight Predictor

The annual flight study is a great source of information based on past travel trends, but what about finding the best days and times to fly based on current predictions? There are a number of flight predictors you can use to find cheap fares. But do they work? And how? Unfortunately, there hasn’t been an extensive study done on whether flight predictors can actually predict the future prices of travel, I think it’s a safe bet that you’ll get more accuracy using these tool than you would just winging it. So in my opinion, they are a useful tool when booking airfare.

Our favorite flight predictors

Google Flights

The tool to use first and foremost is Google Flights. It uses historical data to predict the future fare price. They give you date tips to save you money, if you’re dates can be flexible. You can also sign up to track prices on a specific route. I also really like the “best flights” tool that shows you the best possible flight, taking time, price and duration into account. It’s like having a travel agent on your side.

Hopper

Using Hopper’s awesome “watch this trip” feature is a great way to be notified as quickly as possible about a possible flight deal. You’ll never know how many great deals on your route you missed without it! Hopper uses current and past data to predict when is best to buy within the next year, and they say they can get up to 95% accuracy.

Rely on Travel Alerts

Maybe we can trust the studies to tell us how to find cheaper fares, but one thing still remains ultimately true, fares are added at all times of the day, every day, to reservations systems. There’s no one time that flights are being added. Thus we should be prepared and ready to scoop up a good fare when it gets added.

If you want to rely on predictions and head to your computer to book a flight when those predictions states, then you have to be willing to live with the fare you’re given at that time. If you truly want to get the best airfare deals, you need to be in the know, and that requires being connected to the best travel alerts that can let you know within a few minutes of a great fare being added to the reservation system, so you can head in there right away and get the deal.

Our favorite flight alerts

Hopper

The Hopper app gets a nod in this category too, because you can set the alert on any route and it will instantly send you an email with the deal it found.

Airfarewatchdog.com

Another great tool for travel alerts is Airfarewatchdog.com. They have 3 alert options you can sign up for: weekly tips and deals, flights from your departure airport, or deals on the specific route you specify. They also have an active Twitter account that tweets popular deals all the time, so you can scoop up a great fare to somewhere you weren’t even planning to travel. This is a great way to travel spontaneously or find good weekend trips.

RouteHappy

If you have specific concerns about the flight, like how much room the seats have and which airline gets the highest rankings, you can use RouteHappy to find the best or cheapest flight that meet your specifications, based in a happiness score.

Destination Trends for 2017

Other great information comes from these airfare studies, including what destinations appear to be trending in popularity for the coming year based on capacity (the number of flights to a destination). The study shows that capacity is up overall around the world more than usual, which translates into better deals for travelers. It’s basic supply and demand. Supply is up quite a bit in a few popular destinations, like Cuba and Da Nang, Vietnam and Cuzco, Peru.

Other destinations that are trending hot for 2017 include:

Considering jumping on a trend? Click on any of the links above for more information on the destinations we’ve been to. These are some of our favorite places to visit!

Conclusion

There really are quite a few ways to help yourself find a good airfare, even if the typical “rules” don’t pay off for you. If you’re vigilant and do enough research, you’ll know when you see a good fare and you’ll be prepared to snap it up.
If you of any additional tips and tricks that have netted you a good fare, please share!
Laura Lynch
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Laura Lynch is the creator and writer of Savored Journeys, an avid world traveler and lover of great food and wine.

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