How To Fly Domestic for Cheap?

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Fly Domestic for Cheap

Summary of Content

In the 21st century flying from east to west coast, for example, is not a journey that you would take once in a lifetime. It is more like… having a coffee in New York and lunch in LA. Perhaps you are even reading this on an airplane now. Whether you are flying domestic to visit family and friends or just explore a new city, we need to make sure we can hack the system and buy cheap domestic airfare, so we spend more money on fun with your loved ones.

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With frequent jumps in the airfare prices, it’s no wonder that buying a reasonably priced ticket can often feel like trying to hit a moving target. As one of our pro tips in our previous article, we mentioned the prime booking window term. This simply represents the best time to buy cheap flights in the US, and it is usually about 54 days before your departure according to the previous study. Remember, this length of time before your flight departs has one of the biggest influences on the pricing of your tickets.

Our best source of information that works absolutely amazing for us and we always trust is CheapAir. In March of this year, the website has posted their yearly study of the market. Their research has been compiled of 917 million airfares. This has a lot of zeros. As an outcome of the study, they have defined six booking zones that show the relation between the length of time before departure and the price paid at that time. Other useful information from the CheapAir.com 2018 Annual Airfare Study is: worst and best days to fly domestic to save money and seasonal trends.

Understanding the 6 Booking Zones

The First Dips- 169-319 Days in Advance

This is the very first zone that starts when the seat is put for sale. Being an early bird has its ups and downs. If we are looking closely at the prices, yes, you will most certainly not pay the least to fly domestic during this window, but you might gain other advantages. When you are booking early you have a lot more options and flexibility of airlines, routes, seats and so on. Those can all disappear as the flight dates get closer. The seat selection can be a big game changer especially for groups willing to sit together, so paying the few extra bucks might be worth it for you.

The Peace of Mind Zone- 122-168 Days in Advance

This zone was very creatively named by CheapAir the “peace of mind.” The reason- you are buying cheap domestic airfare, or at least less expensive than first dips! Having said that it’s not like you really won the lottery. You will maybe save $20-$30 depending on your route. The great thing is that there is still plenty of flight option, as well as departing times, so you won’t be stuck with a limited number of offers.

The PRIME BOOKING WINDOW- 21-121 Days in Advance

Now you can sing with happiness- savings have arrived. Commonly known as the best zone to snatch a good deal on an expense we hate to overpay for. Are you on a tight budget? That should not prevent you from following your dreams of exploring new lands, just get in the “prime zone” and thrive. The zone is quite large, and you will see fluctuations in prices here as well as the market changes, but those will be minor, within 5% of the lowest probability. Now that you know- flying domestic is fun and can be cheap!

The "Push your Luck" Zone- 14-20 Days in Advance

Getting way closer to the departure date. Your options for routes and departure times are slimming down so as your chances to see a deal. But! There are “pockets of luck” as CheapFair calls them. We can’t really guarantee, because who knows what will happen tomorrow but some of the lower fares may still be available especially depending on destinations or the season. But you should be well aware of going into this zone. If your departure date falls into the Christmas season for example- it is doubtful that you will get a deal. Not only you will perhaps pay slightly more, but your seat selection (if that matters to you) will be very limited.

Playing with Fire- 7-13 Days in Advance

If you’ve waited until the very last minute in the quest of booking cheap flights in the US, that you are “playing with fire,” this zone is your home base. This is the final stop before the last zone. Here the prices are almost certainly going to be higher than the Prime Booking Window and fewer options available to you. But the good news is if you are here for whatever reason, you are entitled to about 22% discount of what you are going to in the next zone- Hail Mary.

Hail Mary- 0-6 Days in Advance

And we are reviewing this zone because there are always people booking here for one reason or another. Praying for you will be a noble thing to do if you are trapped in here as you will pay a whopping pile of money, and the chances of flying domestic for cheap will be closer to zero more than ever before. Of course, your seating selection will be there too.

Best Days to Snatch a Deal

Much debate has been conducted over that matter, but numbers are not lying. We have put it simply for you- best day to book and best day of the week to fly. Without further a due, let’s see.

Best Day To Book Domestic Airfare

The study shows that the fluctuation of prices is negligible from day to day, within 2$, so book any day. However, with your own experience maybe you will get different results on different airlines. For me, for example, I fly almost exclusively Alaska Airlines domestic, and I always get great deals on Tuesday night. Also, they have fantastic flash sales- check your email daily, they disappear fast.

Best Day To Fly Domestic

Oh YES! Unlike booking days, we have a clear winner here, well at least two first places- Tuesday and Wednesday. Sunday is the most expensive day! Bear that in mind, people are coming back to get ready for a week full of work. 

Seasonal Changes

Seasons always affect airfare as demand and supply vary during them, so the airfares change too. Here is a breakdown of what you might expect for every given season. 

Spring

This is a tricky and not a straightforward one. Here the optimal window is exactly 90 days, even though the Prime Booking window is 46-122 days. The“spring break” is in session and that sparks creativity and desire to explore new grounds which could lead to higher demand and price, but on the other hand, there are no major holidays to drive prices up.

Summer

The all mighty, trickiest of all- Summer. Most popular travel seasons for the vast majority of Americans. If budget is a factor for you, DO NOT WAIT until last minute. The average best time to book is 47 days according to CheapAir’s study from 2018 and the difference between the best and worse price is $203. August and September are the months where you can find the cheapest domestic airfare.

Autumn

We call it a shoulder season- meaning… good deals and value for leisure travelers. The price of the tickets is reasonable, and you generally have great flexibility, except of course Thanksgiving. This is a scary one to fly on, but its worth it, gets family together and keeps the spirit of the holiday. 69 days out will be your best bet for booking the optimal fare here (excluding Thanksgiving)

Winter

Generally, a good time to fly and wander around the US, except for Christmas and New Year weeks as you might have already figured that out. Affordable airfare in the winter months can be booked around 62 days before your expected departure. The Prime Booking Window for this season is 21-110 days.

Final Thoughts

We are excited to share all this plethora of knowledge with you. Hoping that it is helpful and become your guide to booking cheap domestic airfare so you can save some money and spend them on things that are more fun. If this is something that you are interested in, please check out our partner’s guide to Hacking Airfare where you can find an exact step by step process of how to monitor prices and mainly how to snatch the best deals for domestic and international airfares with maximum peace of mind and flexibility.

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THANKS FOR READING!

Hi there! I’m Atanas — I’ve been traveling around the world since I was 15, so about 12 years, but just recently got into writing. My mission is to inspire more people to take on the journey of their lives and spread the word that traveling the world can be easy, fun and not cost a fortune!

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