Booking a trip to Europe is an exciting endeavor for many world travelers. Whether you’re headed to the romantic city of Paris, the ancient sights of Rome, or the charming villages of Switzerland, there is something for everyone. The allure of Europe lies in the continent’s incredible mix of culture, art, history, food, and natural beauty.
With so much to offer, it’s no wonder Americans are flocking to Europe in increased numbers. Whether you’re headed to less frequently visited cities or sightseeing in popular destinations, knowing the best time to book flights is crucial.
For starters, timing your flight right can save you a significant amount of money. Airlines use dynamic pricing to determine the cost of tickets, meaning prices fluctuate depending on the demand, season, availability, and time of booking. Booking at the right moment can help you secure a much better deal than the person sitting next to you on your flight to Europe.
Moreover, popular European flights can fill up quicker than domestic flights (because who wants to miss out on Europe?). Booking in advance ensures availability during the dates you desire, even if it’s a busier time of year.
Need one more reason to book in advance? Well, it also gives you more time to plan your itinerary. Once you’ve secured your airline tickets, you can schedule excursions and tours, find an available hotel, and work out all the details of your adventure.
So, you’ve got the reasons. Now you’re probably asking yourself, “When is the best time to book international travel?” In this article, we’ll review that answer in detail and help you secure the tickets you want at the best price.
What is the “Booking Window”?
Ever heard the term “booking window” when talking about flights? This is a critical concept in the airline industry, and understanding it can actually help you get better prices on flights.
Simply put, the booking window starts when the tickets are made available for purchase and ends on the departure date. During this window, travelers can purchase seats on the flight as long as they are available, but the price will continuously fluctuate.
If you’re curious about why the price changes, we’re diving into the factors that influence cost below so you can better understand the best time to book a flight.
Supply and Demand
The number of available seats is one of the factors that most influence flight prices because of the dependency on supply and demand. If there is a surplus of unsold seats, prices drop. On the other hand, a shortage of seats results in increased prices.
Gradual Price Increases
As more and more tickets sell, the ticket prices on a flight climb. Unfortunately, that means the closer you book to the departure date, the more you can expect to pay.
There are exceptions, however, such as when flights have more than a few available seats right before the departure date. If sales decline, the airline may drop the price to incentivize travelers looking for last-minute flights.
Early Booking Incentives
When tickets are initially released, airlines often offer them at a lower price. The airline benefits because they can gauge demand for the route and determine capacity. If there is a high demand, they know to add more flights to this destination, and if the capacity is low, they can cancel flights that would go unbooked.
Getting bookings in advance also ensures a steady cash flow. Because of these airline benefits, the best deals are sometimes offered right when flights are made available.
What does this mean for you? With this insider information, you can save money by turning on alerts from booking sights or working with a travel agent who has insights on when flights will become available.
Fare buckets allow airlines to sell a mix of high- and low-priced tickets within the same class. Keep in mind that there may be several fare buckets within each class, which is why you may have a different set of conditions or rules than another traveler, even if they’re sitting in the same class. Here’s just one example of fare buckets within the business class:
- Business Class Fare Bucket A: Non-refundable, no changes allowed ($300)*
- Business Class Fare Bucket B: Changes for a fee ($400)*
- Business Class Fare Bucket C: Fully-flexible ticket ($500)*
*Note: These prices are meant to show the difference between fare buckets, and do not accurately reflect the cost of an international business class ticket.
Booking in advance can help you get a better deal on seats in lower-priced fare buckets. The reason is that these are typically the first to sell out. Despite the limitations, these are ideal for budget travelers who are willing to compromise on flexibility to save on their tickets.
Some airlines have periodic sales for off-seasons or special occasions. During these promotions, travelers can buy airline tickets for a great price, but they usually are first come, first serve and involve advance booking.
The Best Time to Book International Flights
All the above factors combine to create the mysterious and complex “booking window”. But while booking in advance is often a good idea, it’s not necessarily the only time you can secure a good deal. And let’s not forget that it’s not always about when you complete the booking. Your travel dates are equally important when it comes to fare prices.
So, when exactly is the best time to book international flights? Let’s break down the answer.
Peak season tends to revolve around school holidays, such as Christmas, spring break, and summer vacation. Many families use this time for holiday travel or a quick getaway, increasing the demand for and prices of airfare. If you can’t be flexible with your dates and need to schedule an international trip during peak season, your best bet is to book in advance. If possible, book your tickets about a year in advance before the prices start to climb.
You may also be able to get cheaper flights by booking your flights to depart on the cheapest day of the week. The best day tends to be midweek, such as Tuesday or Wednesday.
Even if your dates aren’t flexible, you may want to consider adjusting your destination. Depending on where you plan to depart, some routes may be considerably cheaper than others.
For example, a round-trip to Europe might be much cheaper out of New York than it would be from Texas. However, those living in southern states are likely to find much better deals on holiday flights to Mexico, South America, or the Caribbean. If you can be flexible about where you depart, it’s worth looking into during peak season.
Spring (before and after school breaks), fall, and the off-peak winter season are referred to as the shoulder season and are great times to travel to some destinations. The lower demand during this time leads most airlines to offer lower-priced tickets.
Of course, sometimes your travel plans are contingent on specific weather conditions, such as a ski trip in the Alps. Instead of booking the peak season, you could opt for a few weeks before or after the rush. You’ll have fewer crowds and get a better deal.
If you’re flexible with your travel dates, you may be able to take advantage of the best deals which tend to be offered at the very last minute. These aren’t guaranteed since airlines only lower the fares at the last minute if plane tickets go unsold and have low demand. They’re also incredibly limited in availability. But if you’re adventurous and have a flexible schedule, these last-minute airfare prices are a traveler’s best friend!
Tips for Securing the Best Deals
Getting the best deals isn’t just about knowing the best time to book—it’s also about knowing how to use the vast number of tools available online. Here are some travel tips that can help you make the best use of your travel budget.
Sign Up for Alerts
If you’re set on traveling within a specific range of dates, using flight alerts is a great way to get a deal. These types of alerts are sometimes offered directly from airlines, but you can also use tools such as Google Flights. After setting your criteria, such as the destination, date, and budget, you’ll get notifications when the price drops.
If you act quickly, you can be the first to obtain the lowest price, which is crucial on flights with high demand. Remember, other travelers may track prices for the cheapest flights too.
Utilize Comparison Tools
It’s not just the fare that can fluctuate in price. Depending on where you book a ticket, the price may vary tremendously. That’s where comparison tools come into play. They allow you to check the price on different booking sites and choose the one with the best flight deal.
Connect With a Travel Expert
Dissecting the complicated world of flight deals isn’t easy. Even if you learn all there is to know about the booking window and how airlines determine prices, there is no guarantee that you’ll get the best price out there. In fact, you may not even have access to these cheap flights.
That’s why it’s a good idea to work with travel experts, such as those at Business Class Experts. We have a few tricks up our sleeves and can score the best deals on international airfare. Best of all, these deals are often on seats in business and first class, making your flight an enjoyable and affordable experience.
Take the Stress Out of Booking With Business Class Experts
The bottom line is that the best time to book international flights depends on many factors, including your destination, desired class, and how flexible you can be with your travel dates. Instead of spending weeks or months scouring the internet in search of the best prices, leave it to the experts!
Business Class Experts can help you find deals on first class or business class flights! Whether you’re a business traveler or a tourist, we can find you the best deals on destinations like London, Paris, Rome, Madrid, and Barcelona. Contact us for a quote, and let us help you secure cheap business-class tickets for international trips!