How Far in Advance Should You Book a Flight for the Best Price? The Answer Might Surprise You

iStock
iStock

Hunting down the cheapest airfare isn’t an exact science, but you don’t want to be either too early or too late. Unsurprisingly, there are plenty of theories out there as to the best time to book, whether it’s certain days of the week or a specific amount of time before your travel dates. A new study examining the prices of 197 million different airfares offered in 2017 finds that the answer varies by season, as Lifehacker reports.

The study, conducted by CheapAir.com, does away with the notion that certain days of the week offer cheaper bookings; according to this data, the difference between booking a flight on Sunday versus Wednesday probably only works out to a difference of a few dollars, so it’s not worth your time to wait. Now, there are cheaper days to fly on, so if you’re really intent on saving money, Tuesday and Wednesday are the cheapest travel dates, and Sunday is the most expensive.

How many days in advance you should buy your ticket varies more, especially between seasons. In general, CheapAir.com says anywhere between three weeks and four months in advance of your travel dates is the “prime booking window” to get a good price, but obviously that’s a huge stretch of time. If you drill down to seasonal flights, you can get a better picture, though. The best time to book a flight for the winter is 62 days in advance, according to this data, while spring flights should be booked 90 days in advance, summer 47 days in advance, and fall 69 days in advance.

Granted, all those numbers are based on averages, but they provide useful estimates, and the bonus for getting the timing right is valuable: The difference between the best-priced and worst-priced summer flights in the study was $203, and the difference in the spring was $263.

CheapAir.com offers a search tool that recommends when to buy the lowest-priced fares based on your particular route, so you can input your departure and arrival airports for a more customized “prime booking” time window. Other apps, like Hopper, will give you recommendations based on your travel dates and locations, will notify you the minute the price drops, and will estimate whether or not the price is likely to continue dropping further.

But if you can’t resist buying as early as possible, try signing up for a service like DoNotPay, which keeps an eye on prices for your flight and tries to get you a refund if the price drops after you reserve your ticket.

[h/t Lifehacker]

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America's Top 25 Colleges and Universities for 2021

Harvard University's Memorial Hall.
Harvard University's Memorial Hall.

Deciding what makes a certain college more desirable than another is highly subjective. Some prospective students might think a championship-winning football team and a massive student body are major selling points, while others prize a small, tightly knit community above all else.

To try to come as close as possible to identifying objectively great colleges and universities around the country, WalletHub analyzed a whopping 30 factors in seven categories, from student selectivity and cost to campus experience and career outcomes. These encompass basic metrics—admissions rate and average class size, for example—as well as more specific considerations, like study abroad programs, on-campus employment opportunities, and the median salaries of recent graduates.

Of all 1008 schools included in the study, the Ivy League ones continue to reign supreme. Harvard University ranked first, with a score of 78.6 across all 30 metrics, edging out Yale by just .03 points. Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Dartmouth, and Brown also made the top 25. With low acceptance rates and high graduation rates—not to mention huge endowments—these stately old institutions are rather difficult to compete with, but they’re definitely not the only esteemed places to get a four-year education.

As a testament to the continuing success of the tech industry, three technology institutes made WalletHub’s list: Massachusetts in third place, California in fifth, and Georgia in 11th. Those three schools ranked in the top five for return on educational investment, meaning that graduates make high starting salaries compared to how much their education actually cost.

Geographically, New England (and the East coast in general) is home to a majority of the top schools, though five from California alone did chart, too: Stanford University; University of California, Berkeley; Pomona College; and Claremont McKenna College, in addition to the aforementioned California Institute of Technology.

Check out the top 25 below, and see where your alma mater ranks on WalletHub’s full list here.

  1. Harvard University // 78.6
  1. Yale University // 78.57
  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology // 78.44
  1. Princeton University // 78.41
  1. California Institute of Technology // 77.65
  1. Stanford University // 77.12
  1. Rice University // 76.96
  1. Northwestern University // 75.4
  1. Duke University // 75.18
  1. University of Pennsylvania // 74.95
  1. Georgia Institute of Technology // 74.92
  1. Vanderbilt University // 74.66
  1. University of California, Berkeley // 74.54
  1. Columbia University // 74.51
  1. Johns Hopkins University // 74.37
  1. University of Chicago // 73.59
  1. Dartmouth College // 73.43
  1. Williams College // 73.19
  1. Brown University // 73.17
  1. Carnegie Mellon University // 73.11
  1. Washington and Lee University // 73.08
  1. Swarthmore College // 73.08
  1. Pomona College // 72.92
  1. Claremont McKenna College // 72.84
  1. Amherst College // 72.83