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Study Shows the Best Time to Book Flights Is 6 Weeks in Advance

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By , dealnews Features Director

Trying to plan a budget-friendly trip can be a difficult task wrought with indecision and second-guessing. Airline prices can sometimes fluctuate on a daily basis, and although you know not to wait until the last minute to book, should you also avoid buying too early? Does it make sense to hold out for a little while to secure a better price?

A recent study from the Airlines Reporting Corp. offers to shed light on the "when to book" matter. The firm discovered that the sweet spot for getting the best price on a flight is approximately six weeks before the date of travel, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. Airlines Reporting found that flights purchased within that time frame were "nearly 6% below the overall average fare" of flights purchased at other times. (Not surprisingly, the organization also found that tickets tend to increase in price by up to 40% if purchased the day of travel.)

Knowing this and being a thrifty traveler, your immediate inclination might be to wait until exactly six weeks before your desired day of travel and buy the cheapest ticket available at that time, with no questions asked. But even Airlines Reporting urges consumers to still shop carefully. Although the study draws from a vast archive of data (consisting of millions of transactions over four years), each route and trip will ultimately vary, and you shouldn't ignore an excellent deal just because it falls short of the suggested 6-week window. Use this information as a guide, but keep in mind that you'll want to comparison shop and monitor rates over time.

What's more, we often see airline sales that have a booking period that's conducive to this time frame, meaning you can take advantage of our comparison research. For example, this Air France sale (for roundtrip flights to Europe from $596.34) lasts through February 9, and is valid for dates through April. That allows you to book with the aforementioned scheduling specifications, as well as access value information; this sale, for example, is the second-lowest collection of roundtrip fares to Europe we've seen from Air France.

So if you're planning an upcoming trip, definitely use the "6-week rule" as a loose guideline while seeking out fares. But also be sure to check out our daily travel deals and weekly roundup for discounted flights, hotels, and more in the lead-up; the more you know about what deals we've already seen, the better equipped you'll be to make a decision about the prices you find when you're ready to buy.

Photo credits top to bottom: Sodahead and 1,000 Awesome Things

Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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