Spring may just be arriving, but some people are already planning ahead for their summer vacations, starting with Memorial Day (some 34.9 million Americans hit the road to kick off summer in 2011).
According to Sarah Mitchell of Kayak, it's still a bit early to book domestic air travel for the summer (in general, aim to book 21 to 35 days prior to departure). For international travel, booking too early can result in paying more but, Mitchell says, international airfares begin to drop about three months before departures, so start looking now for Memorial Day airfares. Airfare for both international and domestic travel begins to start rising dramatically two weeks before departure, so be sure to leave a cushion. However, as a general rule, if you do find good airfare now, Mitchell warns, you should book to lock it in.
The folks over at Expedia share similar advice, though they do have particular tips for each of the summer's big holidays. In general, they note, the typical optimal window to get the best deal on airfare is between 21 and 28 days prior to departure. But that does change at high travel periods such as holidays.
Herewith, Jeremy Boore, a travel analyst with Expedia, gives his suggestions for when to book your airfare for summer's biggest weekends:
Memorial Day: Last year's average ticket prices for flights were around $400, driven primarily by the high demand for travel last minute (tickets sold more than 24 days in advance of departure were, on average, below $400). Meaning people who purchased their tickets in March and April tended to get a better deal than those who waited until the month of May.
4th of July: It's generally "more difficult" to find great deals on flights for this holiday, says Boore. The 2012 average ticket prices for summer's midpoint were around $422 per ticket. Even though purchasing airfare 21 to 28 days out is the norm, forget about it for this holiday and instead plan ahead 5 to 6 weeks out. Boore's tip? Start looking at ticket prices in early May. While volume was relatively small, 2012 prices were up to 10 percentlower than overall July 4th prices during that time.
Labor Day: This holiday generally has lower demand because people have already gone on their summer vacations by then, or so says Boore. As such, it's easier to find a deal during the holiday (which is September 2 this year). Average ticket prices hovered around $371 in 2012. Again, aim to book 5 to 6 weeks out.
Happy summer (planning)!