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The best time to buy international plane tickets

Updated April 17, 2017

For international travel, not only is the travel agent, consolidator, bucket shop or online retailer an important part of finding the most economical airfare, but the timing of the plane ticket purchase is also important. The best time to buy international plane tickets varies by destination and time of travel.

Purchase Far in Advance

For international travel, it is best to purchase tickets at an absolute minimum of one month in advance, though the earlier the search begins the cheaper the airfare possibilities. Ninety-day advance purchases for international travel is optimal. If your travel dates fall in a busy tourist season, four months to nine months notice is best. For example, tourism in Paris is high in the spring, so as demand increases and the time grows nearer, airfares increase; therefore, it is best to purchase these tickets a few seasons, or even a year, in advance. The economic principles of supply and demand apply to the fluctuating airfare market in the same fashion these principles apply to any other business.

Keep an Eye on Bucket Shops and Specialty Travel Agents

Many bucket shops and travel agents specialise in specific regions of the world, and have established relationships with airline consolidators. Bucket shops and plane ticket retailers (local travel agents or online retailers) can offer substantial discounts on particular plane tickets, and often advertise "last-minute deals" and travel packages. Research the travel agents and bucket shops nearest you to see which specialise in your destination region, and keep an eye on the plane ticket prices of these retailers, who are especially useful for short-notice travel.

Allow Date Flexibility

Travellers ideally want to take off on a Friday or the weekend, but these days have a higher demand, and therefore higher airfares. A departure or arrival during the week--ideally a Tuesday or Wednesday--will result in a less expensive plane tickets.

Be Careful with Airfare "Gambling"

Some travellers boast substantial last-minute findings, even having plenty of advance notice for a trip. While waiting with the hopes of a drop in plane ticket prices in the airfare market is extremely risky and will not always pan out favourably, Hotwire.com travel expert Clem Bason says that some circumstances do support waiting to purchase plane tickets. Winter in Europe, for example, is a time of low demand, notes Bason, who says, "Several months before, if you see high fares, it's a good chance a lower fare will be available if you wait."

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About the Author

Isobel Washington has been a freelance journalist since 2007. Washington's work first surfaced in Europe, where she served as a restaurant critic and journalist for "LifeStyles" magazine. Her love of travel and culture inspired her first novel, which is currently underway. Washington has a 10-year career in marketing communication and holds a Bachelor of Science degree.