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: What are the cheapest days to fly?
That’s right: Regardless if you’re buying on Sundays, Tuesdays, or on Fridays, it matters more when you actually get on the plane than when you buy your tickets. And don’t just take our word for it. Analysis released by the team behind Google Flights shows that shopping for flights on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays instead of Saturdays or Sundays isn’t saving you money.
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 that compare and 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, expert way to find cheap flights.
In this post, we’ll compare and answer your most burning questions about the cheapest days to travel, take a train, stay in a hotel, when to be flexible, and more. Because something as simple enough 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 When Booking 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 … or on Fridays … or even on Monday. 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 the 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 That’s a convenient yet outdated myth that ignores the fact airfare is constantly changing not just daily, but by the hour and even by the minute.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. That means 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 the 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 to Hawaii 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 cheap flights 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 – and that’s what you should focus on.
So, what is the cheapest day to fly? Let’s take a look.
What are the Cheapest Days to Fly in America?
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. So what are the cheapest days to fly?
Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Saturdays are the Cheapest Days to Fly Domestically
Typically, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday is the cheapest day to fly. If you can structure your travel schedule around these days, these will likely be the best days to fly – both for a lower cost and a less-hectic airport experience.
According to Google’s data, flying Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday was 12% cheaper than flying over the weekend over the last five years. For domestic travel within the U.S., that number is 20%!
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 Sundays. Business travelers head out for work on Mondays and return on Thursday or Friday. That means airlines are eager to sell more tickets on the other, off-peak days … resulting in lower prices and the cheapest day of the week to fly.
So, you guessed it, that means the most expensive days to book flights 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 these days, this simple tweak could save you hundreds.
Let’s take a look at an example. Say you want to head down to Florida from the midwest this fall. Flights from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Fort Lauderdale (FLL) are significantly cheaper on most Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Saturday departures are often a bit cheaper than other days, too.
Compared to some other days of departure, this simple change could save you up to $150 or more on these roundtrip flights.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Saturdays are the Cheapest Days to Fly International Routes
What about international travel? Is there a cheapest day of the week to fly international?
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 fall. 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 $60 less – if not hundreds of dollars cheaper – on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for this search, though you see a few cheap Monday and Thursday departures here, too.
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.
Early Morning, Midday & Late-Night Flights Can Be the Cheapest Times to Fly
There are clearly cheaper days to fly. But what about the cheapest times to fly?
It’s all about supply and demand: Just like the trends we see with the cheapest days, the time of day travelers prefer to fly tends 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 time 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) next month. 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 the 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 fly.
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
What are the cheapest months to fly in 2023? 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-May or maybe early June through 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, if not 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 September 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 March and April 2024. In every case, a Friday or Saturday night stay is substantially more expensive – in many cases, double or more the price.
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.
“What are the best days to buy airline tickets?”
Figuring out when are flights cheapest and 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.