When to book the cheapest airfares for an overseas holiday

Booking a holiday can be tricky, especially given the constantly changing landscape of airline prices due to inflation, soaring fuel costs, and geopolitical issues.

However, experts agreed that booking flights, accommodation and activities for your overseas trip further in advance often yielded better deals.

“The earlier you can purchase an international airfare, the more availability there is, and so the higher chance for a cheaper fare,” travel expert Dan Heathwood from EnPerSo Business Travel said.

“Midweek flights are often less crowded and cheaper than those on weekends, making them a good option for travellers looking to save money,” he said.

That tip is similar to one from, which recently released its 2023 International Airfare Study.

Although the study is geared towards American consumers, the broader trends can be applied to Australian travellers.

The study analysed 917 million airfares across 10 global regions and revealed the best times to book international travel.

According to the study, the best time to book a holiday flight, regardless of destination, can be summed up in two words – “buy early”.

It found booking 10 months in advance will save travellers most on international flight prices.

What time of day?

According to consumer website Finder, generally speaking, flights during the early morning, lunchtime or late at night are usually the cheapest.

Evening flights between 5pm and 9pm tend to be the most expensive because they enable travellers to sleep on the plane and avoid taking a day off work.

“It is also important to avoid peak travel periods, such as school holiday periods, Easter, Christmas and other major events, when prices are typically higher,” Mr Heathwood said.

The study found that the cheapest month to travel internationally is March, depending on the region.

December is the most expensive time of the year for travel because of Christmas holidays.

Mr Heathwood warns against waiting for sales or price drops, especially during busy periods.

“Generally, if you wait, the fares will just keep going up,” he said.

He advises travellers to be flexible and look for different options, such as mixing carriers and combining different routes or airlines to find affordable airfares.

“Not looking at mixed airfares or combining different routes or airlines can also be a bit of a mistake,” he said.

Mr Heathwood also suggests that travellers consider lesser-known carriers, which can often provide more availability and cheaper fares than larger carriers.

“The bigger carriers like … Qantas … tend to fill up a bit quicker and therefore [are] more expensive,” he said.

Some main routes such as from Australia to Europe via Singapore can be heavily booked, driving up prices.

Mr Heathwood recommends considering alternative airports, such as Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok, which can offer different routing options and potentially lower fares.

According to Ivona Siniarska, a travel industry expert for 1000 Mile Travel Group, travellers should think about incorporating a stopover in their holiday, as it not only breaks up the travel but can also reduce the overall cost of visiting multiple destinations.

Ms Siniarska told TND that people should consider airlines that offer competitive airfares, even if they have a slightly longer route.

She said travellers should take into account factors such as time, budget and route, and explore less-travelled paths, which could potentially save hundreds of dollars and make the journey more interesting.

Cheapest months to book for favourite destinations

Skyscanner shows the following deals for outbound travel in 2023.

  1. United Kingdom (London): Current cheapest month is May, with flights from $1326 return
  2. India (New Delhi): Current cheapest month is May, with flights from $773 return.
  3. United States (Hawaii): Current cheapest month is December, with flights from $538 return.
  4. Thailand (Phuket): Current cheapest month is August, with flights from $372 return.
  5. Fiji (Nadi): Current cheapest month is April, with flights from $432 return.
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