[Rick Seaney is the CEO and cofounder of FareCompare, and columnist for Investopedia. The views expressed by columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Investopedia.]
If you like to get on planes throughout the year, this is the guide for you. It will help you find deals in winter, spring, summer and fall because controlling when you fly can be the easiest way to save money. That said, we’ll also talk about cutting costs on deals whenever you travel. First, let’s go to the calendar.
Note: The following dates are the result of analyzing hundreds of thousands of airfares and crunching the numbers to calculate average prices. The actual best dates can vary a day or two, depending on where you travel from and where you’re going. Most dates refer to U.S. domestic travel, unless otherwise noted.
- Cheapest seasons for getaways: winter, fall and spring—in that order.
- January and February are very cheap, with the exception of Feb. 14 to 17.
- Europe remains cheap through late March.
- Stay-home dates for saving money are June 22 to Aug. 24, unless you can fly weekdays.
Winter Getaways: Cheapest Time of Year to Fly
Even the cheapest season of the year has its super-cheap days. January and February cost the least for for U.S. flights, but Europe remains cheap through much of March.
Cheapest Single Day, on Average: Jan. 21.
Cheapest days of the week: Tuesdays and Wednesdays, followed by Thursdays. Notice that Jan. 21 is a Tuesday, and several fare sales launched in Jan. 2020 (including JetBlue and Spirit) feature deep discounts for travel on Tuesdays and Wednesdays only.
Stay-home days: Feb. 14, 15, 16, and 17 are going to be a bit more expensive, thanks to Valentine’s Day and the President’s Day weekend, both popular times to fly.
Spring Getaways: Significantly Cheaper Than Summer
The earlier, the better is the rule for saving money in spring.
U.S. getaways: Fly before March 1, the first fare hike of the season; another will hit June 2.
European getaways: The first big hike occurs March 26, followed by a second on May 14.
Stay-home dates: Fridays and Sundays become more expensive in March and beyond.
Summer Getaways: The Most Expensive Time to Fly
It's everyone's favorite warm-weather vacation, in the northern hemisphere. Try to travel at either end to avoid the highest prices.
Peak-pricing for U.S. travel: June 22 to Aug. 24; save by flying before or after.
Peak-pricing for European travel: June 2 to July 14.
Stay-home dates: Peak-pricing dates will be most expensive, but you can save something by flying domestic on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Saturdays or midweek for Europe.
Fall Getaways: Second Only to Winter for Cheap Flights
From beautiful leaves to wine harvests and comfortable weather, autumn should cost more. But with back to school and back to work, it doesn't. Take advantage. Just steer clear of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's.
Great getaways dates: Fly domestic as of Aug. 25 or beyond; for Europe, fares drop sharply in the second week of September.
More great getaway dates: First two weeks in November and before the December holidays.
Stay-home dates: Thanksgiving Day falls on Nov. 26 this year; avoid the entire week. The same for Christmas and New Year’s. If you must fly, do not wait until the last minute to purchase tickets.
Cutting costs on getaways year-round
There are steps you can take to save money whenever you travel. For example:
- Fly less popular days. Especially Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.
- Fly in/out of big airports. Bigger generally means more airline competition and more competition generally means cheaper fares.
- Fly inconvenient routes. A connecting flight can be a lot cheaper than a non-stop; not always, but the price difference can be great enough that it’s worth investigating.