Summer is peak season for air travel—or to paraphrase Bette Davis in "All About Eve": Open up your wallet. It’s going to be an expensive ride. But not if you know when to fly. Here are the time periods to consider while shopping if you want the cheapest vacation flights possible.

Key Takeaways

  • Fly at the start and end of summer.
  • Watch the weekends around July 4th.
  • Fly cheap weekdays.
  • Shop now.

1. Fly at the Start and End of Summer

Depending on the destination, late June and early July can be priciest for summer fliers, so try these cheaper alternatives.

Flights in the United States

The best deals are usually through mid-June. Then, look to August for deals.

  • Aug. 20: Midweek departures see a distinct price drop.
  • Aug. 27: Another price drop, which affects departures every day of the week.

Flights to Europe

Hurry: A price hike occurs on June 22. Or wait for deals in August or beyond.

  • August, second week: Peak prices start to come down.
  • September, second week: Airfares drop again, significantly, making September one of the best times to go to Europe. Prices are low, weather is cooler, tourists are fewer.

2. Watch the Weekends Around July 4th

This year, the 4th of July falls on a Thursday so many travelers automatically say, ‘Perfect. We’ll depart on the weekend before the holiday and return on the Sunday after.’ This would be a mistake! Airlines know this is a logical timeframe for summer travelers so they price it as they would any popular time to fly, at top dollar. Here's how to get the best deal.

  • What to avoid: The weekends bracketing the holiday (before and after the Fourth) will be expensive because airlines know that’s when it’s most convenient for many people.
  • When to fly: Check out prices on the holiday itself; this is often the cheapest time to fly on a major holiday (this is true on Christmas Day and Thanksgiving, as well). Take off early in the day and you won’t miss a moment of the picnic or fireworks.

3. Fly Cheap Weekdays

When you fly in U.S., you will almost always save something by boarding a plane on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday. If flying to Europe, make it Monday through Thursday.

The cheapest days to fly are different in the U.S. and Europe: Tues, Wednesday, and Saturday for the U.S.; Monday through Thursday for Europe.

If you want to be absolutely sure of the cheapest days to fly within a single month (or an entire season), look for a deal-finding tool; there’s one on my site, but there are plenty of others out there.

Tip: You can’t fly a cheap day for both departure and return flights? Even one will save you a few bucks.

4. Shop Now

Airlines never offer an unlimited number of deals; the cheap tickets are always finite. You can get yours, though, if you get serious about shopping now. The sooner you get going, the more you’re likely to save.