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Exactly When To Book A Flight for the Biggest Cost Savings

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Even when you’ve set aside the time and mental energy required to plan a cost-efficient trip, scouting flights for the best deal can feel like playing a slot machine. Searching at a particular time and even in a certain browser window (hot tip: open an incognito window in Google Chrome to keep prices from ratcheting up in real time) can seemingly yield randomly lucky or unlucky results. But according to a new report from Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC), figuring out when to book a flight for the maximum savings isn’t all left up to chance. And simply following a few timing guidelines could bring that dream trip within your budget (or at least not too far from it).

By analyzing data from ARC’s airline sales database for the past several months, researchers found that the best day to book a flight is actually Sunday—not Friday, as popular belief would have it—and doing so can save you, on average, 5 percent on domestic flights and 10 percent on international flights.

The most cost-effective day of the week to book any flight is Sunday.

From a mental-health perspective, that timing aligns well, too: For many, Sundays are often overshadowed by the Sunday scaries (aka that feeling of dread prompted by the weekend’s end), and planning a trip has been shown to boost your happiness levels in real time. So, plan and book a trip on a Sunday, and you could save money and your mental state in one fell swoop.

If you have some flexibility in your potential travel plans, it’s also worth considering the report’s intel on when to actually take a flight (beyond when to book one). The researchers found that the best day to leave for a domestic trip is, conveniently enough, Friday (and not Monday, as popular conception goes), while the best day to leave for an international flight is Thursday; the former can save you, on average, 15 percent, while the latter can spare you 5 percent. The bottom line? It’s almost always more cost-effective to start your trip toward the end of the week, rather than at the beginning.

Zooming out further to consider flight-price fluctuations on a grander scale can also lend insight into when to book a flight within the scope of the year (if your potential trip doesn’t shoehorn you into a certain timeframe, that is). For example, the month of January is typically the cheapest time of the year to book travel and to actually take that travel domestically, as flight demand tends to be the lowest: Many folks in the U.S. often spend January recharging after the holiday season, upping the number of available seats on flights across the country—which, in turn, decreases their prices.

According to the Expedia report, taking a domestic flight in January can save you up to 10 percent, on average, in comparison to flying in June, though the numbers shake out differently for international flights; if you’re leaving the U.S., it’ll be most cost-savvy to take that trip in August, which can save you up to 20 percent in comparison to traveling in December (the most expensive month for travel abroad).

And if the trip you’re booking is a vacation or any trip that’s solely for pleasure, it’s worth dedicating some extra thought not only to when you’ll book and leave, but also to when you’ll return. According to findings from a 2012 study analyzing the effects of employee vacation on well-being, happiness levels tend to peak on the eighth day of a trip, making it well worth extending just past the weeklong mark, if you can.

Should that seem overly lengthy at first glance, consider the very real health benefits to be reaped from the stress-melting effects of time off. A 2018 study tracking the cardiovascular health of more than 1,200 people for 40 years found that those who took three or more weeks of vacation each year had a 37 percent lower chance of dying in the follow-up period of the study than those who took fewer than three weeks annually, on average. So, if you have the option to take paid time off, consider this your sign to do so more often—doctor’s orders. And, hey, since you now know exactly when to book a flight and travel in order to save the most money, what are you waiting for?

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