Best Time To Buy Last Minute Flights (Upto 45% Off)

Aim for 6-8 weeks before departure when airlines first start discounting. Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 3pm tend to have the biggest discounts, up to 45%. Sign up for fare alerts and check regularly as prices fluctuate wildly for last minute tickets. Being flexible on dates and times opens up the most money-saving options.

Booking last minute flights can be a great way to save money on airfare, if you know the best times to buy.

While conventional wisdom says to book early, airlines will often drop prices in the final few weeks before departure to fill seats. The key is being flexible and strategic with your travel dates.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the sweet spots for getting last minute flight deals. We’ll cover factors like days before departure, time of week, time of year, origin and destination, and more.

You’ll learn insider tips on tracking prices and how to pounce when airlines release discounted fares. With the right approach, you can save hundreds on flights without skimping on your vacation.

When Are The Best Days Before Departure?

Airlines tend to release the biggest discounts in two key windows – very close in (0-3 days before) and a couple weeks out (14-21 days). Here is a breakdown:

0-3 Days Out

At the very last minute, airlines will slash fares drastically rather than fly empty seats. If you can handle the stress and uncertainty, booking 1-3 days pre-departure can yield huge savings.

Deals pop up randomly though, so you need to track prices daily and have very flexible travel plans. International flights see the steepest discounts, often 40% or more compared to average economy fares.

The last minute dash can also work for one-way domestic flights where the airline needs to fill lopsided demand. Depending on the route, you may snag a one-way for as little as 25% of the roundtrip price.

Just be aware – choices are limited at this stage. You take what you can get.

14-21 Days Out

This is the airline’s first window for offloading extra seats. Domestic flights frequently dip 40-60% below average economy rates.

Even some international flights may hit this sweet spot, dropping 35-50% or more. You’ll have greater route and schedule flexibility too compared to 0-3 days out.

Ideally start tracking prices 21 days out. Then pounce if you see a great fare 14-21 days before takeoff. Deals come and go quickly at this stage, so you need to check pricing daily and book fast once targets are met. 

When Is The Best Time Of Week?

Aim to depart on weekdays and return on weekends. Midweek flights tend to be much cheaper than weekend ones. Here are the specifics:

Cheapest Departure Days

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are the best days to start your trip. Airlines discount midweek flights the most to fill excess capacity before the weekend rush. Average savings range from 15-40% compared to weekend departures.

Cheapest Return Days

Come home on a Saturday. Airlines know most vacationers prefer to return before the workweek starts, so they offer discounts of 15-30% on Saturday returns. Sundays can also have decent deals as travelers scramble to get home before Monday. 

Avoid booking last minute trips that depart or return on Fridays as they are considerably more expensive.

What’s The Best Time Of Year?

Aim for shoulder seasons – the periods between peak and off-peak travel times. Think spring, fall, and winter. You’ll avoid the holiday and summer crowds. Airlines offer massive discounts of 50% or more on flights during shoulder seasons to stimulate demand.

Here are the best times of year to find last minute flight deals:

Fall Fares (September to November)

Fall is great for last minute domestic deals as kids go back to school. International flights also hit low points, especially in September and early October after the summer rush. Average savings range from 35-55% compared to summer peaks.

The 2 weeks around Thanksgiving offer some of the steepest discounts if you can handle the holiday crowds. Be flexible on dates, and you can score flights for 60% off or more.

Winter Fares (Early December to Mid-March)

December to mid-March is a prime time for last minute deals across the board. Savings of 40-65% or more compared to summer are common. International destinations offer particularly deep discounts in their respective low seasons.

The 2 weeks before Christmas are ideal for domestic flights as travelers lock in holiday plans. You can often save 50% or more booking 14-21 days out. January and February deals pop up last minute as post-holiday travel slows.

Spring Fares (Mid-March to May)

Mid-March to May is shoulder season for many destinations. Look for savings of 35-55% compared to summer. Deals fluctuate more so watch pricing closely 2-3 weeks out and snap up discounts as they appear.

Midweek flights tend to have the steepest drops in spring. International destinations like Europe and Asia offer some of the biggest last minute spring deals.

The Best Domestic Routes

Not all routes are equal when it comes to last minute deals. Here are the best for snagging domestic discounts:

Los Angeles (LAX) to Las Vegas (LAS)

This route always has last minute steals as airlines duke it out for partygoers headed to Sin City. Expect a mix off prices with deals as low as $39 one-way popping up randomly in the 2 weeks pre-departure. Midweek trips deliver the most bang for buck.

New York City (JFK) to Orlando (MCO)

Families racing to catch some Mickey Mouse time create great last minute opportunities here. Look for deals from $78 one-way when booking 14-21 days out. Early December flights have the most availability as kids start winter break.

Dallas (DFW) to Cancun (CUN)

Along with LAX to LAS, this Mexico party route sees fierce competition. Watch for weekend trips under $200 roundtrip in shoulder seasons when booking 21 days or less out. November, January, and May have the cheapest last minute pricing.

Chicago (ORD) to Denver (DEN)

Business travel between these central US cities makes deals plentiful, often $100 roundtrip or less. Midweek flights deliver the best opportunity with 20-35% discounts popping up 7-14 days pre-departure. 

Washington D.C. (IAD) to Los Angeles (LAX)

Political and entertainment industry traffic feeds heavy competition on this transcontinental route. Look for 15-20% drops or more even a week out for midweek flights. Under $200 roundtrips are common last minute finds. 

Top International Destinations

Mixing route competition and shoulder season timing is key to scoring huge international discounts last minute. Here are prime targets: 

US to Europe

Look for deals in late winter (February/March), fall (late September to mid-November), or May. Midweek flights often dip 40% or more, especially flying eastbound from the US. Under $400 roundtrips are possible booking 2-3 weeks out during shoulder months.

US to Caribbean/Mexico

November and May offer droves of last minute steals below $300 roundtrip once kids return to school. Look for the biggest drops on weekend party flights 14-21 days pre-departure. Cancun, Punta Cana, and Montego Bay have the most options.

US to Asia

Cherry blossom season (late March-April) and fall foliage timing (late October-November) offer hundreds in discounts on trips to Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, and other hotspots. Watch for 15-25% drops in the months prior targeting midweek flights. Deals under $500 roundtrip are common.

US to South America

Winter (September-November) is an ideal window for last minute deals south of the equator. Look to lock in flights at least 21 days out for 15-30% discounts or more on trips to Lima, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro and beyond. Under $500 roundtrip is common.

How To Track and Find Last Minute Deals

Tracking prices is vital to snag the steepest last minute discounts. Here are some insider tips: 

Follow airfare experts on social media 

Airlines will often release 24 hour flash sales and other exclusive deals to influencers first. Be ready to book the minute specials are advertised! 

Sign up for price alerts

Major search sites like Kayak offer price change alerts. You pick target rates and they’ll email you when matching fares pop up.

Stalk sales calendars

Sites like Airfarewatchdog map out best airline sale months and weeks historically. Match your travel dates and routes and watch those periods closely.

Leverage private browsers

Airlines can raise fares if they see you searching repeatedly. Use private browsing to check incognito and dodge these algorithms.

Book directly on airline sites

This ensures you catch every last seat at reduced rates. Third party sites don’t always reveal an airline’s full inventory. Shopping directly gets that inside track.

Be ready to book 

Have notifications on so you can snap up deals immediately. Prices can disappear fast, especially 21 days out or closer.

Saving Money While Traveling

Buying cheap flights is only half the battle. You need to keep costs low once you arrive. Here are key budget tips for last minute travelers: 

Use alternative airports

Smaller regional airports often provide huge savings over busy hubs on rental cars, parking, and incidentals. Research all area airports, not just major ones.

Travel light

Most airlines charge for checked bags these days. Carry on only to dodge fees. It also saves transport costs once there.

Eat street food

Skip big sit down restaurants for grab and go street eats. You experience local flavor for a fraction of the price.

Stay outside cities

Lodging drops fast as you exit metro areas. Stay a train stop or short ride away and pocket major savings.

Buy attraction passes

All-inclusive passes offer huge discounts on combined admissions. They quickly pay for themselves compared to individual tickets.

Avoid resort fees

These sneaky daily charges drive up hotel bills fast. Dodge them by booking condos, motels, and off strip casino properties. 

That covers all the key strategies for maximizing savings on last minute airfare and travel costs. Follow these tips to slash hundreds off your next big trip!

Things To Consider Before Buying

  • Destination Flexibility: With last-minute flights, being open to changing your desired destination can often help you find cheaper deals. Airlines serve numerous destinations; if one is booked, another might be available at a lower cost.
  • Compare Prices: There are numerous online platforms like Skyscanner, Expedia, or Google Flights that allow you to compare ticket prices of varied airlines for the same route. Utilize these tools to potentially get better deals.
  • Flight Times: The departure and arrival times can significantly affect flight prices. Often off-peak hours, such as late nights or early mornings, offer cheaper flights than popular timings.
  • Number of Stops: Direct flights tend to be more expensive than those with multiple stops. If time allows, consider choosing flights with layovers instead of non-stop ones.
  • Airlines’ Policies: Since it is last minute booking, check each airline’s cancellation policies and the fees related in case plans change again.
  • Package Deals: Travel websites sometimes provide attractive package deals inclusive of accommodation and transport, on top of much lower airfare rates during last-minute bookings.
  • Booking Apps & Alerts: Use booking apps which provide instant notifications about price drops or last-minute deals.
  • Budget vs Premium Airlines: Whether opting for budget or premium airlines depends on your travel needs – comfort level against costs.
  • Reward Points & Air miles: Make use of accumulated reward points or air miles on your credit card to trim down the cost of the ticket price.
  • Travel Insurances: As most last-minute bookings are non-refundable, protect yourself from unexpected circumstances by investing in travel insurances that cover flight cancellations or delays.

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