My husband found this article in "Wired Magazine" with tips about when to buy airline tickets to get the best price. Tracking Airfares Article
Sharon...great little article. I've leaving for Spain in about 10 weeks, so I'll see if the article's "2 to 8 weeks beforehand" shows a cheaper price.
It always makes me nervous to wait--even when the airfare is more than I'd like to pay--but I'm willing to give these strategies a try! The other thing to remember is to be flexible about a destination if possible.
Many of the strategies listed have been discussed here. I rarely fly on a Friday or weekend anymore, usually leaving on a Thursday and returning on Monday (It stretches a trip nicely as well) I also look for those incremental jumps/drops as the season ramps up and winds down. Seems like there is always a bump up in prices for departures at the beginning of June, so leaving a few days earlier is cheaper. (Same for mid-May and beginning of May, and Mid-June, etc...) If you are flexible, the 2-8 weeks sounds correct. I always described it as finding the point where prices are declining, but there is still good availability. I find at 10 to 12 weeks I still get good prices, but I get the flights at the times I want and I get to sit next to my wife at an aisle or window, worth it for an extra $50. Now for a deep discount (couple hundred) I would reconsider.
Be careful using " 2nd airports" it can be very difficult using public transportation . I am am not saying dont use but do your homework . Example Frankfurt- Hahn is not Frankfurt. Do Your Home work !!!
I never find these tips very useful because I cannot get them to work. For our last two trips to Europe (June 06,07) we purchased our tickets around the five, six month mark. I checked the airfare every week and sometimes twice a week after that. Never saw a cheaper fare. It slowly increased until the last the week when it was nearly 50% over the six month price. Buying six, eight weeks out is a gamble. May work for some airlines and some routes but none that we were interested in.
Another tip to use, is to check the school vacation schedule for where you are flying into and out of. This can make a big difference. In Germany, the states stagger all their vacations, so Berlin may be on vacation in June, while Bavaria isn't til August. I have saved lots of money just by taking a train to a city in another state and flying out of there, when the Frankfurt schools are on break. I imagine France, Austria, Italy and Switzerland, etc. may be the same. Anything within a week of vacation beginning and ending will up your price. This also includes spring, winter and fall vacation periods. You can google school vacations to find out the dates.