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When is best time to buy international airline tickets?

My wife and I will be flying to Paris in mid January 2015 and returning the first of April. There is information out there about best day of the week to buy domestic flight tickets and how far in advance but I have not found good advice for international flights. Can anyone give guidance? I assume a round trip ticket is the wise way to go, rather than waiting to buy the return ticket just prior to departing for Paris.
Thanks

Posted by
211 posts

I know some international airlines allow people to buy tickets 355 days in advance so you can start checking now to see what the prices are. Usually the lower prices are for travel on Mondays-Wednesdays. And yes, definitely buy a round trip ticket. You might sign up for airline notifications of sales or just keep checking every week to see if the prices have changed.

Posted by
10164 posts

Many, many airline have sales for tickets at that time of year because it's such a low season. I'd get onto the email lists of the airlines you might want to use and wait for their sale. They are usually announced in the fall or early winter for January.

Posted by
4535 posts

A study was done recently that noted the best deals for flights to Europe were about 100-90 days in advance. Sorry I don't have the link to the articles.

Posted by
1221 posts

Many airfare web sites will let you set up fare alerts where they e-mail every week with prices for a specific flight. (I like AirFareWatchdog and Hipmunk for this) I'd set up a few of these now for different dates, and if there isn't a huge price change along the way, call it good in mid-November and buy then.

Posted by
1446 posts

Watch the prices 3-4 weeks before the end of each financial quarter... airlines will sometimes offer deals around then if they need to bolster sales for that quarter (so beginnings of June and September). The lowered prices may not even be marketed as a seat sale per se, so keep checking. I have had good luck for Sunday departures towards Europe, with a midweek return.

Posted by
8021 posts

it is always the day after you buy them. in fact I suspect they have some sort of cookie that tips them you have bought tickets and so they temporarily drop a couple of hundred bucks the day or two after purchase.

I follow the tickets for awhile and then jump when it seems low -- these days if it gets down to $800 I jump as the typical price has been about 1200 and then climbing up to 1800 in the weeks before travel. January should be low season although they then reduce flights, so I would hope for something on the lower end -- but once you see patterns of your ticket prices, jump when it approaches the lower end. unfortunately longer visits i.e. several months seem to always be more expensive than trips of a month or less. We often go for 90 days (the Schengen limit) and find those tickets more expensive than trips of 3 or 4 weeks.

If you plan on other destinations than Paris during that time, fly open jaw rather than having to return to Paris. This does not cost more and saves time and money on the round trip. e.g. last spring we flew into Paris and out of Madrid. The year before we flew into Rome and out of Amsterdam with an Easyjet flight to Paris in between and a Thalys trip for 35 Euro to Amsterdam at the end, all booked well in advance.

Posted by
9110 posts

Tuesday seems to be the best deal for an initial departure day, the return departure day doesn't seem to matter as much.

Posted by
11294 posts

There is no easy way to guarantee getting the best fare. Airlines use computers and algorithms to get the most money possible for each seat, and they've been doing it for decades. And over the past few years, they've significantly cut service, so planes are fuller than ever (fuller planes=less need to cut prices). Be especially wary of pat advice, like "book 45 days out for best prices." Several people have posted here that they spent several hundred dollars extra by following such dubious "rules."

One thing is certain: one way fares, with a few exceptions (Aer Lingus is one) are almost always MUCH more expensive than round trip or multi-city fares.

So, here's what you do:

  1. Start looking now, just to get a baseline. Use http://www.Kayak.com or http://matrix.itasoftware.com/ to start. Then, when you know the airlines that fly your desired route, look directly at their websites too.

  2. Set up fare alerts, as described above.

  3. Figure out now how much money you can spend, and how much pain you can stand. For example, would you tolerate a 10 hour layover to save $200? How about to save $500? What about using an alternate airport? How many connections are you willing to make? There is no right or wrong answer to these questions, and only you can decide for yourself.

  4. Have your credit card and passport information ready, so you can book quickly. You don't need passport numbers to book, although you will need them by the time you fly. But you must book tickets in the EXACT name as it appears on the passport.

  5. When you see a price you can live with, POUNCE. Fares can disappear within an hour. Sometimes they then reappear, and sometimes they don't.

  6. Once you are committed to non-refundable tickets, don't keep looking; you'll just drive yourself crazy.

Posted by
388 posts

Unfortunately we don't have any good advice as to when to buy tickets. Since we are not a travel agency flights are little beyond the realm of our expertise. Sorry we couldn't help more.

Posted by
15 posts

When one flies "open jaw" round trip how does one buy that ticket? My limited knowledge does not include knowing how to buy that type of ticket. Say, for example, I wish to fly into Luxembourg and depart from Paris a couple months later.

I appreciate the detail of these answers so much.
Thank you.

Posted by
1221 posts

Most flight search sites will give you three different flight type choices- round trip, one way, and what's usually called multi-city. Select multi-city, and input your departure flight, say Boston-Paris; second leg, input something like Brussels-Boston and hit search.

While multi-city is also useful for more complex itineraries, sticking on one ticket/alliance can end up costing you a lot more so price out different combinations of flights and carriers and see what happens. We've got an upcoming trip that's USA-Scotland, Scotland-London, London-Munich, (train leg) Paris-USA, and it was about $1500 per ticket cheaper to book the USA-Scotland and Paris-USA as an open jaw/multi-city ticket on Delta and one way tickets for Scotland-London and London-Munich on BA rather than book it all as a single ticket.

Posted by
8021 posts

Open jaw booking (we have been doing this for 25 years or more) costs the average of the two round trips i.e. it is not more expensive. If the tickets are 800 round trip to Rome and 700 to Paris (those were the days) then the open jaw ticket for that route would be 750. You may find yourself restricted to fewer options since the cheaper open jaws are on the same carrier. As noted above you just run your legs on the multi-city option of Kayak or any airline to get choices.

Posted by
1446 posts

Open-jaw tickets can save you a lot of money and time.

The weird thing is that they often price out differently for the exact same dates in the reverse direction. So, if your open-jaw is into Amsterdam and out of Munich, for example, try also into Munich and out of Amsterdam and reverse your original itinerary if it's worth your while.

Also looking at nearby airports can save you significant money, often with just a quick train ride to add in. Budapest is often cheaper than Vienna, Munich is often cheaper than Salzburg, Paris than Brussels, etc..

Posted by
1221 posts

Sometimes it's airport tax; LHR is infamous for charging taxes when your plane takes off from there but not when it lands there, so landing there, and then going by train to France and beyond can save you some money (test quote was about $100 difference) instead of flying into France and home from Heathrow.

Posted by
15 posts

Very interesting information for me from all these responses. I am grateful I have some advance time to learn from your suggestions.
Thank you.