In the endless pursuit of cheap flights, too many travelers focus on the day they book their flights. From Black Friday to Cyber Monday to any old Tuesday, there is no magical best day to book flights. Here’s what really matters: The cheapest days to fly.
That’s right: It matters more when you actually get on the plane than when you buy your tickets. Airfare is constantly changing, which means a good bargain, mistake fare, or fare war can pop up any day of the week when you’re booking flights. But there are consistent patterns and trends that show there are often cheaper days of the week to travel – and focusing on those cheapest days to fly throughout the week is a surefire way to find cheap flights.
In this post, we’ll answer your most burning questions about the cheapest days to travel, take a train, stay in a hotel, and more. Something as simple as changing which day you fly by just a day is the key to cheap travel and could save you hundreds – or more – on your next trip.
- Do Flight Prices Go Down on Certain Days of the Week?
- What are the Cheapest Days to Fly?
- What is the Cheapest Day of the Week to Travel?
Do Flight Prices Go Down on Certain Days of the Week?
You’ve heard it from friends and coworkers. It’s widely accepted as gospel: “The cheapest day to book flights is on Tuesdays.”
There’s just one problem: It’s not true.
Sure, some airlines like Southwest, JetBlue and Alaska Airlines may release recurring sales on Tuesdays. But these advertised “sales” aren’t often much of a discount. You might get a better deal on a Wednesday. Or Thursday. Or any other day of the week. There’s no specific day of the week or time that flights are cheapest to book. That’s a convenient yet outdated myth that ignores the fact airfare is constantly changing not just daily, but by the hour and by the minute.
Take it from us: Our team of flight deal analysts spends all day, every day searching for the cheapest fares to send to Thrifty Traveler Premium members. The best fares and sales don’t happen on only one day of the week. In fact, we find crazy cheap flights, mistake fares, and unadvertised award sales every single day of the year.
And no, airlines aren’t tracking your searches and raising your prices based on how many times you search. There’s no need to search incognito for flights, either.
If flight deals only popped up on Tuesdays at midnight or prices increased based on number of searches, we wouldn’t be finding deals all day, every day! For example, here’s a recent flight deal we found on a Thursday afternoon:
And a smoking hot deal we found on a Monday morning:
So, sorry, but there’s no rule or hack for the cheapest day to book flights. If you want to score cheap flights, you need to be vigilant – or get our flight deal alerts sent straight to you
But while there may not be a cheaper day to book tickets, there are cheaper days to actually board that plane. We see it all the time as our team of flight deal analysts search for the best deals: Some days are just cheaper to actually fly than others. That’s what you should focus on.
So, what are those days? Let’s take a look.
What are the Cheapest Days to Fly?
Let’s go over this again: Flight prices are unpredictable and constantly changing. There’s no exact science or rule behind it, but there is an undeniable trend for the cheapest days to fly.
You’ll almost always see that flights are cheapest when you depart or return on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday. If you can structure your travel schedule around these days, these will likely be the best day to fly – both for a lower cost and a less hectic airport experience.
Why? Well, they’re the slowest travel days throughout the week. Many travelers head out for a long weekend on Thursdays or Fridays and return on Sunday. Business travelers head out for work on Mondays and return on Thursday or Friday. That means airlines are eager to sell more tickets on those other, off-peak days – resulting in lower prices.
So, you guessed it, the most expensive days are those days when most travelers are heading out – or coming home. That means flying Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays, and Mondays will typically be more expensive. If you can change up the way you travel and avoid flying on these days, this simple tweak could save you hundreds.
Let’s take a look at an example. Say you want to head to the beach from the midwest this winter. Flights from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Miami (MIA) are significantly cheaper on most Mondays and Tuesdays:
Compared to some Sunday prices, this simple change could save you up to $100 on these roundtrip flights.
Cheapest Days of the Week to Fly International Routes
What about international travel?
Many of the same concepts apply. Flying on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays will almost always be your best bet. Let’s take a look at another example.
Let’s say we want to fly from New York (JFK) to Rome, Italy (FCO) this winter. Let’s take a look at the calendar again via Google Flights:
Again, this follows the midweek flight rule to a T. Flights are at least $50 less – if not hundreds of dollars cheaper – on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for this search.
This is just one example, but the trend is clear. Wherever in the world you’re heading, it could be worth flying on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday for some extra savings.
Cheapest Times to Fly
There are clearly cheaper days to fly. But what about the times of day?
It’s all about supply and demand: Just as the trends we see with the cheapest days, the time of day travelers prefer to fly tend to be more expensive. Want to fly out late afternoon after the workday, and return home mid-morning without having to wake up early? So does everyone else. Mid-morning and early evening flights are often more expensive – though this trend isn’t quite as set in stone as the cheapest days to fly.
If you’re looking to save, early morning, midday, or late-night flights can often be the cheapest times to fly. And if you’re booking a transcontinental or international flight, you could score some substantial savings if you’re willing to take a red-eye flight overnight.
Let’s take a look at one example with nonstop Delta flights from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Orlando (MCO) in mid-April. The late evening flight that gets you in at midnight might not be your first pick, but it could save you up to $150 on your flight:
This won’t always be the case. Airlines will often have cheaper fares at better times if you’re willing to change your dates. It may simply be that the lowest fares at preferable times have sold out.
And of course, flight prices will vary based on several factors besides just day and time. Here are a few other things to consider:
- Where you’re flying to and from. Depending on where you’re flying from and heading to, certain days may be cheaper based on the number of planes heading to that destination.
- Your flight preferences. If you want to fly nonstop, certain routes only operate on certain days, so that may limit your options. If you want to fly business class, those cheapest dates could vary based on business travel demand on certain days of the week like Mondays and Fridays.
- Which airline you’re flying. Budget carriers have limited flight schedules, and are often an exception to this rule because flights are normally low on most days of the week.
Here are some other factors that can help your cheap flight search when it comes to the best days to travel.
Avoid Booking Last-Minute
Though the pandemic has changed travel trends a bit, this is an important rule to follow: Avoid booking within 30-45 days before your flight – and even farther in advance for international flights.
Typically, airlines hike last-minute flight prices because they know travelers booking that close to their travel date are desperate and will pay whatever it costs to get to their destination. You do not want to fall into this price gouge trap!
So don’t bank on getting a deal on a last-second fare. While the cheapest days to fly will still be Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, flight prices on all days of the week will typically skyrocket within a few weeks of the travel date.
Travel During Shoulder Seasons
For most destinations, peak summer is madness for travel. And that high demand for peak season raises flight prices for you.
Typically, flight prices increase from mid-June to mid-August or early September as families get out for summer break and other travelers set out for sunny adventures. There are fewer sales and discounts, which means prices can be double the norm – or more. Not to mention, your destination could be packed with tourists.
Instead, try traveling during the shoulder season. It’s often much cheaper to travel from May to early June and late August through mid-October. The weather is still relatively warm during the shoulder season, and you’ll beat the crazy summer crowds. This is when we find the best international flight deals!
Avoid the Holidays
Trying to score a cheaper flight? This is one rule you’ll need to stick to: avoid traveling during the winter holidays like Christmas and New Years.
Each year, we see flight prices skyrocket for travel from mid-December to mid-January, surrounding the major winter holidays. While we do find a few flight deals around these dates, it’s best to avoid holiday travel. Can you move up your travel dates to early December or later in January? This slight change could save you hundreds.
What is the Cheapest Day of the Week to Travel?
While choosing the cheapest day to fly is crucial to saving money on your next trip, there’s more to consider with your budget as you plan. That can include comparing the costs of traveling by train instead of flying and finding the cheapest days to book hotels.
So let’s take a quick look at the cheapest days to travel beyond your flight.
Cheapest Days of the Week to Travel by Train
Luckily, train and bus fares don’t fluctuate in the same way airfare does.
Train tickets are generally sold by tiers of quantity sold. What does that mean for you? The sooner tickets are purchased, the less expensive it will be. If you know your itinerary, book those train tickets as soon as possible! Nearly all train services offer online ticket purchases.
Not sure if you should go by plane, train, or automobile? Check out Rome2Rio, one of our favorite travel-planning resources.
When it comes to the cheapest days to travel, flexibility can save you some cash on train travel too. Again, the key to saving is traveling when most others aren’t: Mid-week train tickets tend to be a bit cheaper, though much of the fluctuations in price are based on the route you’re taking.
Thrifty Tip: Want to avoid the hassle of buying individual train tickets? If you’re planning to take the train on more than just a single roundtrip route, it may save you money in the long run to buy a train pass. Passes like the Eurail Pass in Europe and the JR Pass in Japan can get you unlimited rides on select routes for a set time period.
Cheapest Days of the Week to Book Hotels
Weekend stays can be a killer for the budget with hotels.
As you might expect, Friday night and Saturday night stays are always more expensive than a midweek stay. Prices can start to creep up on Thursdays, too. For example, here’s the calendar for nightly stays at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in April 2022. In every case, a Friday or Saturday night stay is substantially more expensive.
Of course, there’s more to it than just the date. Depending on where you’re heading, conferences and major sports events can wreak havoc on hotel rates.
While hotel pricing often won’t vary as drastically as airfare, you can still save by checking in and out on weekdays, avoiding the busy weekend prices. Consider making your trip a longer weekend and checking in on a Wednesday and out on a Saturday. These tend to be the cheapest days to travel by train or plane anyway, so you’ll save on all aspects of your trip.
Finding a great deal on flights can feel like a full-time job with all the changes in airfare, but use this general rule when booking: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays are typically the cheapest days to fly.
The more popular the time to travel, the more expensive flights are likely to be. That goes for the season, month, and even down to the day and time you fly. Start your trip planning with this knowledge in mind before you request that PTO or book any other travel plans. Scoring a cheap flight on these days can save you hundreds, and it’s likely those are cheaper days to take the train and check into your hotel, too.
And if you want to know when flight prices drop from your home airport, get our Thrifty Traveler Premium flight deal alerts and be the first to know. You’ll be traveling more for less in no time!