The price of a particular plane ticket will vary wildly depending on the day of the week, the month of the year, and the length of time between purchase and takeoff. Learn why when you buy your plane tickets affects how much it will cost you.

Plane tickets can represent a healthy chunk of your travel budget—the less you spend getting to your destination, the more money you’ll have to spend on food, drink and fun when you get there. Knowing the best time to book a flight can get you a much better deal, often to the tune of several hundred dollars.

The best time to buy plane tickets

You might think that booking your flight as early as possible—say, a year in advance—might get you the best deal. But that’s not always the case.

How far in advance should you book your flight?

According to FareCompare, the best time to book your tickets is on Tuesdays, ideally early in the morning. Many airlines launch sales late Monday night, so new fares will be available and other carriers drop their rates to match the competition.

Last year, a study was done that analyzed over four million trips to record the lowest airfares and when the tickets were purchased; they found that booking a flight 47 days in advance was the ideal time to get the lowest rates. Before buying your tickets, check out how full the flight is by looking at the seat map. If you’re flying out at an unusual time (for example, a red eye on a Saturday night) and there are plenty of seats open, prices may drop yet to attract more customers.

That said, there are rarely last-minute deals on airfare, so if you have less than two weeks before you fly, it’s probably wise to book your flight as soon as possible.

Is there a better day of the week to book a flight?

As a matter of fact, yes! According to FareCompare, the best time to book your tickets is on Tuesdays, ideally early in the morning.

Many airlines launch sales late Monday night, so new fares will be available and other carriers drop their rates to match the competition.

You can stay alert for deals by setting up airline fare alerts with apps like FareCompare—you’ll get text or email notifications letting you know when prices drop or a sale is announced, giving you the opportunity to snag limited deals.

AirFareWatchDog provides advice on how to get the lowest rate at your chosen destination, from telling you what airlines have sales to that particular location as well as which carriers charge baggage fees. Kayak’s Hacker tool helps locate one-way flights for every part of your journey that are cheaper than booking a round-trip flight yourself. TripAdvisor has tools to help you find the flight that is right for you at the lowest price, checking nearby airports and flexible dates.

Buy tickets individually

Some experts say that you can save money on multiple plane tickets by buying them one at a time rather than as a group.

It will take more time, purchase tickets one at a time, rather than buying your party all at once. This is because ticket prices go up as seats are sold, so if your group tips the flight into a more expensive fare, you might be charged the higher fare for all tickets in your group. Put another way, if there is a $100 ticket and a $200 ticket and you buy them together, you often will get charged $400 for the pair due to quirks in the system. Buying them separately lets you snag that $100 fare.

The cheapest days and times to fly

When you fly can make a big difference in your ticket price. The key is to avoid beginning and end of the workweek when the skies are filled with commuting business travelers.

The middle of the week

In general, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays tend to be the least popular days to fly, so tickets are often less expensive. Fridays and Sundays are the most desirable days, so they will be pricier.

Be flexible: Get the lowest rates by opting for flights other people don’t want. Six a.m. departures, overnight flights, or trips with a layover can get you significant savings.

Stretch your reach: Instead of flying out of the smaller airport near your home, try looking for flights at a central hub that may be further away. Major international airports often have more options and more competitive rates. If you have multiple major airports within a two hours’ drive from you, check out fares from each location. Flights can be hundreds less just one city over.

Don’t be spontaneous: Last minute trips are exciting, but you’ll pay a premium for your spontaneity. If you book a flight less than two weeks in advance, airlines assume you’re a business traveler with a company footing the bill and charge higher rates.

Avoid holidays: Flights around the holidays tend to be the most expensive; the average domestic airfare around Thanksgiving is a staggering $408 while Christmas flights average $485. If you’re planning to travel, try to leave a few days ahead of time to cut your fares down.

Where to shop

Look around: No matter how loyal you may be, shop around and compare rates. No single airline has the best prices all the time. Spirit might be the cheapest on the way to your destination and Southwest on the way back. Research multiple airlines for every leg of your trip to save money.

Check around: Besides looking up rates with the airline directly, also view sites like Expedia or TripAdvisor. They often can find deals you wouldn’t otherwise find on your own.

Airlines are always competing for customers, so you do have some power and options when choosing how and when to travel. Prepare in advance and do some comparison shopping and you’ll get the best rates (and may even be able to extend your vacation!).

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About the author

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Kat Tretina is a freelance writer in the Orlando area. With a passion for personal finance, she aims to help people achieve financial freedom.