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International > When is the cheapest time to travel?

When is the cheapest time to travel? High and low seasons in air travel.

Airfares depend heavily on when the flight takes place. They vary contantly. However, the most dramatic changes arise from the surge of demand in some periods of the year. Airlines charge quite different airfares for the same journey, depending on whether the flight occurs in high or low season.

When you plan a trip, it is worth knowing when you should expect low or high prices and may be able to get cheap air tickets. Peak seasons may be worldwide, regional, or specific to your destination.  

1. Worldwide peak seasons. 

The air ticket market experiences two main peak seasons with expensive airfares worldwide: summer in the northern hemisphere and the end of the year.

Summer. With regards to air tickets, the summer peak season starts in the last days of June and goes on without any pause until the last weeks of August. This peak period results from the very strong demand related to holidays that predominantly take place at that time in the northern hemisphere.

The summer peak season is a long period of high prices. The prices go up with a variable strength and duration depending on the destination. However, the rise happens in nearly the whole world. Even if your destination is not concerned by the migration of holidaymakers, it can rarely escape completely from  the bullish trends because the air transport industry works in full employment in the whole world during that period.

The end of the year. Another peak season in air transport begins just after mid-December and ends a few days before mid-January.  End of year holidays in most parts of the world and migrations of expatriates who often enjoy this period to meet their family are the main causes behind this peak season. 

The end of year peak season is shorter and more variable than summer season. At the end of year, prices vary quite a lot from one day to the next. The overall price rise is more moderate than in summer. However, the rise can be quite strong in many destinations.

The rest of the year, i.e. from mid-January to mid-June and from September to mid-December, is low season in the air transport market with still many exceptions consisting of regional and more specific peak seasons. 

The chart below, which was originally published in a similar article in French, shows the price trends of some roundtrips throughout the year from their price level in mid-January. It clearly demonstrates the changes related to the high and low seasons in the air travel market.

Seasonal trends of some roundtrips: fare changes from mid-January level, by month.
  


Paris - New York  

Paris - Ho Chi Minh City


Brussels - Berlin 


London - Cape Town

The bullish trends in peak seasons are actually stronger than the chart shows. The chart refers indeed only to the flights of the national flag carrier in the country of departure.

However,  manytravelers take advantage of direct or connecting flights from other airlines that may offer cheaper air tickets. In low seasons, significantly cheaper deals are often available.

In peak seasons, fares of these cheap flights tend to be similar to the most expensive ones, as shown by the following graph.


Cheapest roundtrip Paris - New york, by month (fare in euros)


Flag carrier 
(non-stop flight)


All airlines

(non-stop flight)

All airlines
(all flights)    


2. Regional peak seasons.
 

Airfares rise in some parts of the world when demand for trips increases due to events or public holidays in these areas. 

Such events include Thanksgiving Day in the United States (the fourth Thursday of November) and in Canada (the second Monday of October), Lunar New Year in China and Vietnam, carnival, Easter, and other school holidays in many countries.

Then, airfares increase in response to stronger demand from those regions. The uptrend is limited to the areas that are concerned by the event. It does not influence airfares in the rest of the world. Furthermore, the price rises occur mainly at the beginning and the end of these holidays as well as on weekends. 

3. Peak seasons that are specific to some destinations. 

Last but not least, airfares to some destinations increase as a result of the tourist seasons in these destinations. These peak seasons are often related to holiday trends and local climate conditions.

For instance, prices of flights to countries such as Brazil, Argentina and Chile go up from December to March, whether you travel from Europe, North America or Asia. This is a typical regional uptrend.

Countries, such as Thailand and partly Australia, experience a similar trend at about the same time of the year  (December to February).  

Another example: Airfares to destinations in the Indian Ocean such as Mauritius and Reunion Island are usually more expensive during their local peak tourism season (mainly from September to December), than in other months of the year. 

At the end of year, local tourist season and year-end holidays push airfares to new heights as many vacationers from the northern hemisphere are looking for sunny destinations in winter. 

 

In short, in addition to peak seasons such as the northern hemisphere summer and the end of the year that pushes up air traffic and fares throughout the world, there are many peak periods that are specific to some regional events or to each tourist destination.


 

3. When to travel on the cheap.

Travel out of season. As explained above, traveling out of season, e.g. from January to March (at least in the northern hemisphere) or from September to November, is the best way to travel on the cheap in many parts of the world. February and November are among the cheapest months in the air ticket market.

In many destinations, you may often find some attractive periods out of season so that you enjoy your trip at cheaper prices (both airfares and hotel prices) and visit less crowded tourist attractions.

Advance or delay a bit your travel dates. You can often save some money if you travel a few days sooner or later.

-- Travel mid-June instead of end of June and late August instead of mid-August. In many cases, the summer peak season starts weakening in the second half of August, thence airfares start going down.

-- Travel in midweek instead of on weekends. Even in the peak seasons, you find rather cheap air tickets in midweek while fares skyrocket on weekends. 

-- Sometimes, you may save quite a lot of money if you travel just one day sooner or later, e.g. Sunday versus Saturday or Thursday versus Friday.  

Travel on the holidays themselves. Holidays such as December 25, January 1 or Thanksgiving Day (USA or Canada) are mostly cheap days to travel.   

Book early. Airline tickets are usually cheaper if purchased early, several months before departure. However, as for tourist destinations which are served by both flag carriers and charter/low cost airlines, don’t book your flight before flights details of all operating airlines are available (budget airlines release their details much later than the other airlines) in the market. 

Buy one-stop flight instead of non-stop flights if the latter is more expensive. However, as explained above, such opportunity doesn’t occur very often in peak seasons.


Links

Ten tips to get the cheapest air tickets
With about 3 billion passengers enplaned yearly in the world and about 100,000 daily commercial flights, the air ticket market is a huge business. It is worth knowing how to get the cheapest air tickets.
When is the best time to book a cheap flight?
Airfares change continuously. When you are looking for the cheapest deals, it may help you to know the best time to book a flight.
How to get one-way air tickets at a cheap price?
You can find and book easily cheap one-way flights provided that you follow the right way.
Open-jaw and multi-destination air tickets, Air pass, Open-ended air tickets
Airports far away from city center
International and regional airports may be located far away from the city they are named after. Find here a guide to remote airports.
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When is the cheapest time to travel? Airfares depend heavily on the time when the flight takes place. The most dramatic uptrend arises from the surge of demand in peak seasons.