Airline Fares

My family is planning a trip to Paris from April 9 to 19, 2014. That period includes the "spring break" for many schools here in the States. Given that, and the fact that April 20th is Easter Sunday, when should we buy our plane tickets? Some sites suggest 11 weeks out, others suggest closer in or even further out? Any advice? Thanks to all!

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
2259 posts

I doubt if spring break here will have much effect on transatlantic fares. Not many spring breakers head to Europe, more likely Cancun or Cabo. Other factors would swamp that, like business travel and early European vacations. Right now fares have dropped considerably from this summer. Kayak is showing some pretty good fares in April, early April somewhat better than late April. If you can get something in three figures, I'd jump on it.

Posted by John
Van Nuys, CA, USA
154 posts

airlines have spent literally tens of millions of dollars on software aimed at maximizing their sales. They release tranches of tickets on different dates, change prices, even adjust prices depending on how many people are searching for travel in a given period. There are even books you can read about what they've done; for example, http://www.amazon.com/The-Future-Pricing-Inspired-Revolution/dp/0230600190 If you think a simple rule of when to buy tickets is going to outwit the airlines, I wish you the best.

Posted by Ragan
Blair, Nebraska
22 posts

Derek, We have found that there are frequent sales from bigger cities-Chicago, New York etc- sign up for tripadvisors fare emails and they will send you a note when the flights you are looking at reduce. Angie's list gives the advice that approx 6weeks before departure is the best time because the airlines are trying to fill their planes. We are flying to Paris next May and have been checking all sights religiously already. We did find fares last year from Chicago for $867 to Paris, good luck and happy travels!

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2826 posts

"Angie's list gives the advice that approx 6weeks before departure is the best time because the airlines are trying to fill their planes." Be careful. This advice is outdated. The airlines have gotten better at filling the planes sooner (they've cut back the number of flights and are using smaller planes). We've seen several posts on this Helpline from people who spent several hundred dollars more per ticket, because they followed this "helpful" advice. The only thing to do is start looking now, to get a sense of what current prices are. Sign up for e-mail alerts, both from Kayak and from the individual airlines that fly your desired routes. Have your credit card and passport information handy, and discuss the options with your travel partners beforehand++. When you see a price you want (or, given some of the dramatic price increases recently, a price you can live with), POUNCE. Then, don't look back. Why have this handy? Because we've also seen posts here by people who saw a great price at work, but had to go home to get this info. By the time they got home, the fare was gone. You don't need your passport number to book a flight (you can add it later), but the flight must be booked with the passenger's name EXACTLY as it appears on your passport. ++Ditto; there was a post here from someone who saw a great fare, but by the time they could get the OK from their travel partner, it was gone. Figure out everyone's price points and desired routes in advance, so you don't lose a good fare.

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3202 posts

Harold is exactly right. I always bought our tickets 9 mos or so in advance for many trips to Europe until our last trip... I followed the advice to wait 6 wks out and I ended up paying at least $500 more per ticket! I will never do that again. Ever.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2858 posts

And you get a better choice of seats when you buy your tickets earlier.

Posted by Elaine
Columbia, SC
744 posts

I tend to agree with Susan, altho I believe there is some correlation with the travel season. All September I tracked a multi-city fare outbound mid-May returning mid-June in the low $1500 range. Thought that price might go lower if I waited a little longer. but on 9/26 the fare almost doubled to $2800. Lufthansa had raised prices about $500 starting 5/16/14; high season for them. By moving the trip back to fly outbound 5/2 I found the same flights at $1340 and I immediately pounced on it. My flight is 3 legs, about 9500 miles, and I thought something in the $1400 range would be as good as I'd get. I think when you find a fare that you consider acceptable, move on it. The old rules don't necessarily apply anymore. And then you stop looking, and move on to planning something else.

Posted by Diane
Westford, MA, USA
233 posts

It's a risk. The airlines want to fill their planes but the prices do not always correlate to their objective. They can demand more knowing folks need or want to fly, or less if they want guarantee revenue. A week ago I booked for 2014, Paris/late April and out of Nice/mid-May. Price was $1209 on Delta. The prices were higher towards mid-April through Easter. I didn't see them changing but going up so I made my reservations. Know your budget and book as close to that price as what's available. It is a busy time of travel throughout Europe for reasons you stated, school breaks and Easter holiday.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1960 posts

Derek: I would usually be looking to purchase March/April airfares sometime in January, doing as was discussed above looking for a sale. And you've received some good advice. Most years, airfares go up on April first. This year, the Winter airfares are in effect until March 27, 2014. My example is that on flights into Budapest, March, 2014 airfares have been running between $960 and $990. Most April flights are posted at $1,227, which is a substantial increase. We bought flights a week ago for $728 on a United Airlines one day sale. And that's into Budapest and home from Prague. I spotted the one day sale on ClarkHoward.com I later remembered that FareBoom.com could have saved me a few more dollars than buying directly from United. Oh, well. I did okay.
If you can pull your dates up a little, chances are you'll save a lot. And if you spot a price substantially less than present airfare postings, jump on it.

Posted by Nestor
Fairfax
44 posts

The last time I went to Europe I bought my tickets in September for traveling in June. I kept looking to see if I found better rates but I never saw it as cheap. You will see the best rates for tickets in Dec-Mar. Use that rate as you guide, think how much more you would like to pay and search for that dates you want to travel. When you see some thing close to your target buy it. Good rates disappear in hours if not minutes. The airlines know you will be in spring break and will adjust prices to maximize profit. Also, don't focus on arriving directly to Paris. Sometimes landing in a nearby airport/city "can" be cheaper. Have fun

Posted by Ray
Portland, Oregon, USA
1337 posts

Derek, I just got back from my trip and i bought my tickets about 9+ months out. I monitored the priced until i left and it was +/- 200 or so and then doubled days before i left. if you are flexible and dont have your stays booked, then make an experiece of it and do the wait n see aproach. dont forget that the prices can go either way too. i book all of my things in advance so i cant afford to do it. happy trails.