Want cheap plane tickets? Here's the best time to book flights this summer

Ready to hit the beach this summer? If you need a plane to get there, you may want to start browsing airline ticket prices now.

Summer air travel is expected to break more records this upcoming season — with an estimated 257.4 million people boarding U.S. airline carriers between June 1 and Aug. 31, the airline industry’s U.S. trade group said this week. Searches on Google for "summer flights" began to spike in late March.

To accommodate the anticipated overflow, airlines are adding 111,000 seats per day.

Unlike the popular saying, the early bird doesn't always get the worm. There's a "sweet spot" when it comes to booking flights, especially during peak travel periods such as holidays, special events or seasonal trips.

For domestic flights, travel company FareCompare recommends purchasing tickets between 3-and-a-half months or two to four weeks before your scheduled trip. If you're flying internationally, you'll want an earlier start: around 5-and-a-half months or four weeks ahead of your desired date.

When it comes to summer travel, in particular, the site warns that prices start to spike around June 23, two days after the official first day of summer. So, it's best to book in early June if not earlier. Prices reportedly start to drop again around Aug. 20.


For those planning getaways for the Fourth of July, you'll want to start booking now.

According to a recent report from Hipmunk, you'll save up to 23 percent if you purchase a ticket this week. The company, which compares prices on top travel sites, says Boston, Denver and New York City are among the hottest Fourth destinations this year.

Most travel sites also agree: If you can, arrange a Tuesday or Wednesday departure. While it depends on your route, mid-week flights in the U.S. tend to be cheaper than weekend days.

A recent survey by online travel agency company Cheapair cited by AirfareWatchdog found Tuesday flights are — on average — $85 less than Sundays, which added off-peak hours can also save you some cash.

For the procrastinators out there, Hipmunk says you should consider participating in "Summer Travel Tuesday" on the first Tuesday in June. It's reportedly the "most popular" day for booking summer trips.

"90 percent more flight bookings occur on Summer Travel Tuesday when compared to the median number of daily summer travel bookings," the company said in its report.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the average inflation-adjusted price for a domestic ticket has dropped for four straight years to the lowest level since the agency began tracking the fare prices in 1995. But those numbers don’t include all the extra fees that airlines now charge.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.