The Best Day to Buy Airline Tickets
Cost-conscious travelers have always been obsessed with paying less for plane tickets, but as airlines consolidate, raise prices and fees, and slash amenities, gaming the system in search of a good deal has become a standard step in the booking process. As it turns out, there’s not an easy answer to the industry’s million-dollar question, but we’ve combed through the latest data to bring you the information, tips, and tricks that’ll help you find those hidden-gem fares.
What’s the best day of the week to shop?
First, the not-so-great news: if you’re strictly interested in the best day to hit the “buy” button, there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Though standard wisdom indicates that midweek purchases tend to be cheaper – FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney doubled down on this advice, telling Barron’s that to find a sale fare, “the best time is Tuesday afternoon at 3 p.m.,” thanks to airlines’ price-matching adjustments – the reality may not be so straightforward. The 2019 Air Travel Outlook Report from Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC), which tracked Average Ticket Prices (ATPs) and examined billions of data points to identify travel patterns, determined that it’s cheapest to buy economy flights (both international and domestic) on Sunday and most expensive on Thursdays and Fridays, but a competing report claims that the specific date of purchase may not actually have that much impact. The most recent CheapAir.com Annual Airfare Study looked at 917 million airfares in over 8000 markets and found negligible cost differentials from day to day, with average lowest fares within $1 of each other.
How far in advance should you book?
Now for the better news: you might not be able to predict price drops by day of the week, but if you pay attention to the calendar, you should be able to find bargains. Though last-minute deals aren’t unicorn-level rare, you’ll likely get the best prices at least three weeks in advance. Instead of zooming in on a specific day to shop, CheapAir.com recommends booking within a window of 21 to 115 days ahead, depending on the season, with a domestic-flight sweet spot of 76 days before departure. The Expedia/ARC report also pushes for a long lead time, recommending that bargain-minded economy travelers book three weeks in advance for the lowest ATPs, and Skyscanner suggests a 21-day cut-off as well. “There are obviously a lot of factors at play, but Skyscanner has found that savings can typically be found three to seven weeks out from the dates of travel,” says Randi Imas, the company’s head of communications for the Americas.
What are the best times to travel?
And finally, the best news: When you buy doesn’t matter as much as when you fly, so you’ll be ahead of the game if you can keep your dates loose. Of course, there’s not a complete consensus on this front either, but the Expedia/ARC report found that the best day for an economy-class traveler to start a trip is Friday (for overseas travel, check Thursday departures as well), while CheapAir.com’s study declared Tuesday and Wednesday the least expensive days to fly, with average tickets costing $85 less than on Sunday. To complicate matters further, seasonality affects pricing as well – the CheapAir.com data indicates that US travelers paid the highest economy fares in winter and the lowest in fall, so if you have flexible PTO, plan accordingly.
So how DO you find the best fare?
To cover your bases, sign up for newsletters like Scott’s Cheap Flights for flash sales and mistake fares, follow your favorite airlines on social media for real-time deal alerts, and try flight predictors like Skyscanner, Hopper, or Google Flights, which closely monitor airline activity and let you know when to buy. “When considering fluctuation in ticket prices, economic states, and the increase in airline flash sales, it is hard to guarantee that there is a specific day or time that will offer the cheapest flight, so we recommend travelers set up price alerts to track a route’s fare to see how it can fluctuate and independently determine the best time to book based on their own criteria, whether that’s based on budget, dates of travel, or adjustments to departure or arrival city/airport,” says Skyscanner’s Imas.
Suffering from buyer’s remorse? Don’t worry, airlines operating in the US are required by law to refund your money if you cancel within 24 hours of booking, at least seven days in advance of departure. If you missed that window, try Yapta, a site that tracks your purchased flights and notifies you if prices drop enough to trigger the individual airlines’ refund policies.
Scored a great deal lately? Tell us how you did it in the comments below, and we’ll highlight our favorite strategies in an upcoming roundup.
These Are The World's Friendliest Cities
Vancouver has long been rated as one of the world's most liveable cities but it's just been recognized as the world's friendliest in a new international survey. Vancouver is dripping in charms from dazzling skylines to coastlines, and now its multicultural population has been singled out for its exceptionally good nature. A poll published this week from Big 7 Travel asked its 1.5 million followers to decide the friendliest city for tourists and expats and Vancouver came out on top. Locals were praised for being "quick to offer assistance to tourists" and authors complimented the city's "community vibe" which makes "socializing in Vancouver simple." New Yorkers might often be accused of being cold but it appears that reputation is beginning to thaw as it made the cut in 47th place. While it's true that things move pretty fast in Manhattan, authors noted that there's more of a community feel in the neighborhoods of each borough and a melting pot of cultures, which invites people in. But according to the poll, it's not as friendly as Charleston, South Carolina (33rd), or Houston, Texas (19th), and it doesn't have a patch on Nashville, Tennessee (8th), which was declared the friendliest city in the US. Why? Because it boasts Southern charm by the bucketloads, a lively music scene and friendly locals with a "buzzing attitude and an eagerness to show off their city to out-of-towners." With regards to the top five, Kuala Lumpur's "friendliness towards visitors" drove the Malaysian capital into the second spot, while Bruges's "charming atmosphere" and "locals who go the extra mile to welcome tourists" placed the Belgian city in third. Taipei, Taiwan, was recognized as one of Asia’s most LGBTQ+ friendly cities in fourth place, while Hamburg, Germany's "family-friendly feel" pushed it into the fifth spot. You can view the poll's top 10 friendliest cities below and the full top 50 list here. 10th. Glasgow, Scotland 9th. São Paulo, Brazil 8th. Nashville, Tennessee, USA 7th. Christchurch, New Zealand 6th. Dublin, Ireland 5th. Hamburg, Germany 4th. Taipei, Taiwan 3rd. Bruges, Belgium 2nd. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 1st. Vancouver, Canada
How to Get More Legroom in Coach
If you’ve been feeling extra cramped on flights these days, you’re not alone. Air carriers have been been slowly shrinking the amount of legroom customers get for years. The average “seat pitch” – the distance between a point on one seat and the same point on the seat directly in front of it – has decreased from 35 inches in the late 1960s to 31 inches today, and on some airlines has been reduced to 28 inches. That may explain why a quarter of passengers on economy flights said they found seat comfort to be “poor” or “very poor,” a 2018 survey by Consumer Reports found. Many airlines have added more seats to planes to increase profits. But amid growing concerns of deep vein thrombosis (a potentially fatal condition involving blood clots in the legs) on planes with less legroom – and safety issues in the event of an emergency evacuation – the Federal Aviation Administration is considering stepping in to impose regulations on how much room travelers deserve when flying with a commercial airline. The good news? We’ve compiled a list of the best and worst coach seats based on legroom from North America-based airlines. Knowing what your options are can help you make a smarter choice on your next flight. (Note: Legroom on carriers can vary between long-haul and short-haul planes.) NORTH AMERICAN AIRLINES WITH THE MOST LEGROOM Interjet: 34 inches. This Mexico-based, low-cost carrier flies from a handful of US cities to destinations in Mexico and Central and South America. The airline says it removed up to 30 seats on each its aircrafts in order to give customers more space. Air Canada: 30-34 inches. Canada’s largest airline is known for not only low prices but also spacious seats. JetBlue: 32 inches. Although JetBlue recently lowered its average legroom space by adding 12 cabin seats to its latest fleet of planes, the carrier is still a strong runner-up. Virgin America: 32 inches. At 5’11,’’ Virgin America founder Richard Branson doesn't like to be confined to tight spaces – and he doesn’t want his customers flying coach to be either. Southwest: 32 inches. In addition to low rates, the domestic discount carrier gives passengers more space than many of its higher budget competitors. NORTH AMERICAN AIRLINES WITH LESS LEGROOM Alaska Airlines: 31-32 inches. Despite the squeeze, coach passengers have the option to book Preferred Plus Seats, which offer 4 inches of extra legroom, starting at an extra $15. American Airlines: 31 inches. Tight space, right? To American Airlines’ credit, after the Fort Worth-based carrier announced last year it would be adding more seats to its Boeing (BA) 737 Max jetliners, the company decided to nix its plans after receiving negative feedback from customers and employees. Delta: 31 inches. Delta, one of the largest airlines in the world, also offers some of the tightest economy seats. Hawaiian Airlines: 31 inches. Despite its tight seating, Hawaiian Airlines recently nabbed the title of the US's airline industry’s top-ranked carrier for on-time performance from the US Department of Transportation. United: 30 to 31 inches. With flights to 60 countries spanning North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Oceania, United offers larger “Economy Plus” seating with extra legroom. Allegiant: 30 inches. The budget airline serves more than 100 domestic destinations. Select flights offer “Legroom + seats” that provide passengers with up to 34 inches of legroom. Spirit: 28 inches. Although the airline is tied for last place, Spirit offers some of the cheapest fares. Frontier: 28 inches. The low-cost carrier may offer seriously squashed legroom, but (like Spirit) it has some of the lowest prices. HOW TO UPGRADE YOUR LEGROOM FOR FREE Put simply: Loyalty pays off for air travelers. Many frequent flyer programs offer members perks such as free seat upgrades and discounts of 10 to 50 percent on select flights. Promo alerts are often sent to members via email, Twitter, Facebook, and other channels. If you travel enough to earn elite status, you may also qualify for complimentary seat upgrades. For instance, when you fly 25,000 miles on American in one calendar year, you earn “Silver status” that can get you (and a companion) free access to the airline’s roomier economy plus seats. Pro tip: You may even be able to score a seat upgrade by asking the check-in agent or gate representative “nicely” for one, The Points Guy says.
How To Decide If a European Cruise Is Right for You
As I took in my second Mediterranean sunset from the top deck of a cruise ship, I thought to myself, “This isn’t a bad way to see Europe.” Although I had visited the continent before, this was my first time cruising it, and I was doubtful if the growing trend was a worthwhile way to experience the most visited landmass on the planet. But after returning to port 11 days later, I found my answer. In short, cruising is a terrific way to sample many of Europe’s most iconic sites, countries, buildings and cultures, sometimes for less than you would by land and often with fewer logistical hassles. Cruising the continent has its share of shortcomings, however. Having personally explored Europe by land, cruise ship, and even river cruising, I’ve put together a handy list of pros and cons to help you decide if the added convenience is right for you, whether as a first-timer to the continent or someone who’s visited several times before. Pro: logistical ease Celebrity (for which you’ll pay about $100-200 more per 7-day reservation for noticeably better food than with Royal Caribbean), I was delighted by the logistical ease of boarding the ship and hopping on and off in several different counties with only my ship card (no Passport required). And it was really nice not to have to worry about where I’d eat breakfast or dinner after a full day of sightseeing. Pro: unpack your suitcase once A unique pleasure of cruising is that you only have to unpack once, since your floating hotel travels with you. This is especially easy for anyone who’s traveling with family or are themselves a chronic over-packer. Not having to re-pack your suitcase allows you to better observe and enjoy what’s going on around you. Pro: cruise into savings Cruising can also afford significant savings. For example, I paid $1000 for roundtrip airfare through the ship and saved $300 per ticket when compared to online search engine. I even prepaid for gratuity, got complimentary ground transport back to the airport, and only ended up spending a couple of hundred dollars extra on souvenirs. If you can stay away from casinos, specialty restaurants, and costly drink plans, cruising can be quite affordable. That said, you could clearly backpack and stay in hostels for less than you would cruising. But $150 per night in a comfortable room with meals included is a very compelling case for cruising Europe. TIP: For even better savings, book land excursions online in advance with local companies or in-person at port. I’ve done both and saved up to 65% off when booked through the ship. First-Time Cruisers: 11 Biggest Mistakes (and How Not to Make Them) Con: Less interaction with local people While cruising is a great way to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of Europe, it will undeniably limit your interaction with local people and cuisine. In my experience, this is a pretty glaring omission, but not necessarily a deal-breaker. If you can embrace your tourist status and know beforehand that you’ll have to try extra hard to interact with locals, then your cruise can be just as interactive than any overland journey. Con: Fewer authentic meals As for the food, my ship did an admirable job offering breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that reflected the local port. They even brought in several local performing groups to the onboard theater. But there is no getting around this: if soaking up the local language, cuisine, and people is of utmost importance, than cruising might not be a good fit for you. Con: Just the highlights If you like to take things slow and soak in a destination, cruising is also a bad fit. For example, imagine trying to see New York, Washington, D.C., or San Francisco in eight hours or less. That’s often what cruising forces you to do in equally storied cities such as Rome, Venice, Barcelona, Nice, Budapest, and more. On top of that, most cruises only focus on a major section of Europe, say the Western or Eastern Mediterranean, Scandinavia, the Black Sea, or inland rivers. You can’t fault cruising for that sizable geography, but it’s something you should know before boarding. TIP: While April through November is considered the “best time” to cruise Europe (peak season is July and August), you can enjoy even greater savings by booking in the spring or autumn shoulder seasons.
The "Professional Hobo’s" 8 Unconventional Money-Saving Travel Tips
Nora Dunn, aka The Professional Hobo, traveled full-time for 12 years. During that time she discovered how to travel on a budget without sacrificing style or comfort. Today she's sharing her top advice with us. As a former financial planner, I was accustomed to a certain level of comfort when I traded it all in for full-time travel. But without the accompanying income, I had to be creative about how to travel in style. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get the most value for the least money! Here are some ideas. Let Hopper Tell You When to Book Flights I recently discovered Hopper, and it's the first app I check when planning a trip. It helps you select the best dates to fly, then tracks the flight and alerts you when it's at the lowest predictable price. In one case, I noticed that booking my flight directly through the app also saved me money in comparison to booking directly with the airline. Fly in Business Class for Less Than Economy While I use Hopper for domestic flights, I strategize more for long-haul flights, which are consistently in business class for less than the price of an equivalent economy ticket. This is through the strategic use of frequent flyer miles and credit cards. It's not rocket science, but there's definitely a learning curve. You can start here. Become a Mystery Shopper Fancy a train trip across Canada for 50% off? How about a free night or two at a hotel? Or half price flights, restaurant discounts, and spa packages? Mystery shopping for travel isn't a scam, and it's a great way to save a ton of money. Be prepared to work for it by filling out a (very) detailed report, but for higher-priced items like flights and hotels, it can be worthwhile. Get Free Accommodation I saved over $100,000 on accommodation expenses in my 12 years abroad. One year, I spent $173 in accommodation – for the entire year abroad (and that was for two nights at the Hilton in Stockholm)! All this was thanks to free accommodation opportunities like house-sitting, volunteering, hospitality exchanges, and helping out on boats. You can also do home-exchanges (if you have a home to exchange, which I didn't). One of my favorite volunteer gigs involved spending a week in Spain speaking conversational English with locals. In exchange for a free hotel and meals, I chatted informally with dozens of interesting locals I'd never otherwise have met. Between the locals and fellow volunteers, I had new friends – and places to stay throughout Europe for the next three months. Book Local Experiences By booking tours with locals, you not only get a more authentic experience, but your money goes directly into local hands. It's a win-win for everybody! Two websites to search for local experiences are WithLocals.com and GrassrootsVolunteering.org - which in addition to featuring global volunteer opportunities, also has the world's largest social enterprise database, featuring tour operators, homestays, coffee shops, restaurants, and more. Get the Inside Scoop If you want to dive into even more local experiences, then meet locals on their turf! Global organizations like Rotary and Toastmasters have local chapters and warmly greet members from other countries. Not a Rotarian or a Toastmaster? Check out Meetup to find a special interest group that matches your lifestyle. Couchsurfing also isn't just for free accommodation; they have meetups around the world. Lastly, check out GlobalGreeters to get together with a local who can show you a piece of their hometown in the name of cultural exchange. Take a Free Walking Tour If attending a local meetup or doing a one-on-one with a stranger isn't your style, try a free walking tour. It's a fabulous way to get an overview and local perspective of your destination. You can find free walking tours by searching for “[your destination] + free walking tour”, or checking out walking tour aggregate sites like Guruwalk. Remember however, that free walking tours aren't entirely free; it's often customary to tip your guide. Don't Overbook With the best of intentions, while sitting at home and trip planning, we can be dazzled by the amazing activities and overbook. This becomes problematic in three ways; first off, returning home from a vacation exhausted and overwhelmed is no fun. Secondly, the more you do, the more you spend. Lastly, you may discover some better (and cheaper!) activities while you're there; if you've scheduled everything already, you won't have a chance to take advantage of them. With these 8 unconventional travel strategies, may your next trip fulfill your dreams without emptying your wallet!