So, when to book a flight?
It sure depends on airline and region, which is why we focus this post to be Europe-specific, booking flights from one destination in Europe to another.
The Prime Window
The general pattern is that many airlines drop ticket prices consecutively once they start selling a ticket. The low point is considered 3 to 4 months prior to departure time. This makes it the ideal window to book a flight in Europe.
Hold on, don’t book your flight just yet! Unfortunately it is not that straight-forward! There are some exceptions (like the always popular London or Paris) as well as some factors that might have an impact on pricing evolutions.
One factor that may influence this window are holiday periods. During these periods, many people book flights way up in advance. This fills up aircrafts sooner than usual, making prices rise sooner than on average.
Also bear in mind that flights to sunny destinations during Summer might be higher in demand, impacting ticket fares. Everybody wants to go to Lisbon, Barcelona or Rome during Summer months (even us!), while the same flights in Oktober or March might be a lot less popular.
If you can’t make the Prime Window for some reason, try to aim for booking earlier rather than after the 3 to 4 months’ timeframe. If you want a piece of mind booking more time in advance, feel free to book 5 up to 6 months in advance but expect a slightly higher price than the next few months.
However, once you get beyond the 2-months prior to departure, you might be pushing your luck. Exceptions here are less popular destinations in their low-season which might have steady prices just until a few weeks before takeoff.
When not to book a flight
Booking a flight a year or more in advance will certainly result in more expensive ticket prices than the same ticket on its low point. It might only be for as much as €50, however bigger differences are no exception.
Once you want to book a flight within 14 days prior to your departure date, prices rise, a lot. Don’t fall for the myth that a day before flight time airlines drop their ticket prices in order to fill up their aircrafts. It does not happen.
There are plenty of websites that allow you to track a flight and set up an alert once the price changes. Google Flights, Skyscanner or Kayak are some good examples, but we are big fans of the Hopper app!
Hopper allows you to pick a destination and provides you with the cheapest travel options (this might include departing from a different airport or flying to a nearby airport). It also provides a nice overview on pricing history and notifies you whenever is a good time to buy your eagerly anticipated tickets!
Don’t aim for the lowest price
Our final advice is simple: don’t aim for the lowest price. Even with the great sites mentioned above where you are able to see exactly how prices fluctuated in the past, it always remains guess work if a price will drop just a tiny bit more or not.
Therefore, you might feel more satisfied if you compare previous ticket prices and then define a price that you are happy about and that still is a good deal. Fares might rather go up than down so whenever you can get yourself a good deal, don’t let it slip!
Fares change. A lot. Aiming for the lowest price is difficult, however when using apps like Hopper you get a pretty good idea on when you can seal a good deal.
Aim to book 3 to 4 months up ahead, but bear in mind popular destinations as well as the season in which you want to book a flight. Rather book earlier than later and don’t put your chances on last-minute deals. They are for the lucky few.
What is your experience with booking a flight in Europe?