The closer to the departure date you book a flight, the higher the fare. But this is not always true. If you book long before the flight's departure the fare will be relatively high. In many cases the optimal time to book is 3 weeks out.
This is what Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) and Expedia Group find in their travel pricing trends study they published for the 5th consecutive year. Their 5 key tips are:
1. Book flights at least 3 weeks ahead of travel
2. Book flights on a weekend
3. Book hotels on a Friday night
4. Start the journey on a Thursday or Friday
5. Extend short, weekday-only trips to include a Saturday night
Ticket prices over time
Ticket prices are published from 9 months before departure. Usually, they slowly decrease until some 3 weeks out and then rise again. According to the trend study, average ticket prices for coach and premium economy seats tend to be lower when booked on a weekend, usually on a Sunday. On Thursdays and Fridays tickets tend to be the most expensive.
Day of the week
If you depart on a Thursday or Friday ticket prices for most coach and premium economy seats will be lowest. For journeys starting on a Sunday, however, the average ticket price will be highest.
Travelers save on average 25% by including a Saturday night in their itinerary. But for some popular corporate travel destinations, where weekday travel is in high demand, the data shows that savings can be almost 50%.
Basic economy fares offer a seat only. A checked bag and advance seat reservation are usually not included, but can be purchased separately. This is usually a bad deal. Other economy fares that include those services are often equally or lower priced than basic economy fares plus add-ons.
Interestingly, the study also finds you should not assume that nonstop flights only in some cases cost less than flights with stops. This is peculiar, for in particular travelers in Europe know from experience that nonstop flights are more expensive than flights with stops. The reason is that most passengers prefer a nonstop flight over a flight with a stop because they value the convenience.
The study also looks at hotel bookings. It compares the average daily rates across different reservation days. The conclusion is generally you can find lowest room rates on Fridays. Unlike airfares, the most expensive day to book a hotel is usually on a Sunday.
Related: "When to buy your ticket?"
Tags: timing of bookings, basic economy. economy, premium economy, Saturday night