Best Time to Get Cheap Plane Tickets: Here's What the Data From Google Flights Says

New trends from 2023 indicate the best times to buy plane tickets for autumn or winter travel.

Katie Teague Writer II
Katie is a writer covering all things how-to at CNET, with a focus on Social Security and notable events. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing in golf scrambles, practicing yoga and spending time on the lake.
Expertise Personal Finance: Social Security and taxes
Katie Teague
4 min read
a model of an airplane sits upon several $100 bills with stacks of coins in front of it

You can save money by optimizing when you fly and when you buy plane tickets.

Nadzeya Haroshka/Getty Images

It's not even fall yet, but many folks are already looking ahead to vacations at Thanksgiving or the winter holidays. But is now the best time to buy plane tickets for holiday travel, or is it better to wait until closer to your expected travel time? And when are the best days to fly to get cheap plane tickets?

CNET Money Tips logo

The Google Flights team last year examined five years' worth of airfare data to find patterns on the cheapest days to fly and the best time for booking your flights during each season, and some of those trends have changed in 2023. Here are the cheapest days and times of the year to buy plane tickets. 

Read more: Use Your iPhone to Easily Monitor Flight Delays and Cancellations

Cheapest day of the week to fly

If you're planning to book a flight, you may be trying to find the cheapest option. According to Google, it's cheaper to fly in the middle of the week, rather than on the weekend. Flights that take off between Monday and Wednesday can be between 12% and 20% cheaper than weekend flights. Sundays are an expensive day to depart, Google says.

You could also save roughly 20% by booking a layover flight instead of a nonstop flight if you don't mind the extra time it takes to get to your destination. 

When is the best time to buy airline tickets?

Though you may've heard it's cheaper to book and pay for your plane tickets on a Tuesday rather than a Saturday, that's not necessarily true. "There isn't much value in purchasing your tickets on a certain day of the week," Google said.

If you shop for flights between Tuesday and Thursday instead of the weekend, prices have been only 1.9% cheaper on average over the past five years, the search giant said. 

Do flights get cheaper closer to your travel date?

To avoid a potential price increase, it's best to book your flight far ahead of time instead of waiting till it's closer to your trip. Google says that if you're booking a domestic flight, the prices are generally at their lowest between 21 and 60 days before your trip. However, Google notes this may not apply to your specific destination.

Google now has a new tool you can use when booking your dates and destination that lets you see when prices have typically been lowest. For instance, you might find that the opportune moment to book your trip is two months ahead of time. Or you could find that prices have dropped closer to takeoff so it would be best to wait before booking. 

a screenshot of Google Flights showing best departing flights with information on how prices compare historically

Google Flights will now show you how current plane ticket prices compare to historical averages.

Google Flights; screenshot by CNET

When is the best time to book a flight in every season?

Here's what Google said about the best times to book holiday and vacation trips.

Thanksgiving and Christmas. The cheapest flights over the winter holidays are usually available between 54 and 78 days in advance. For Christmas, start keeping an eye on fares 71 days in advance (in early October). 

Spring break. For domestic flights in March and April, Google said, prices are typically lowest 23 to 59 days before departure, hitting their lowest price 38 days out.

Summer vacation. For domestic flights in July or August, prices are typically lower 14 to 44 days out, hitting rock bottom 21 days before takeoff.

You can get money back on flights from Google if you overpay

If you book a flight through Google, be on the lookout for a colorful price guarantee badge. This means Google believes you won't get a lower price than what's listed before you take off. However, in the event that the price does go down, Google will pay you back the difference via Google Pay. Don't worry, it's not up to you to check the prices every day -- Google will monitor the prices for you.

Consider a layover for cheaper plane tickets

If you don't mind taking a little longer, Google said passengers can save an average of 20% on their ticket by booking a layover instead of a nonstop flight.

Other ways to find deals using Google Flights

Google suggests comparing current prices to previous days to see if you're getting the lowest price.

Compare today's airfare to older prices. Search your destination on Google and compare today's rate to similar flights over the past 12 months. (Some search results will also indicate if the price is expected to change.)

Turn on Google Flight price tracking. Toggle on Track prices and include your travel dates and Google will send you an email if the prices change. If you don't have a specific week in mind, you can select Any dates to get a notification if the price drops for flights departing in the next three to six months.

For more, check out CNET's picks for the best travel credit cards in 2023.