SOURCE: Hipmunk

Hipmunk

April 12, 2016 08:00 ET

Hipmunk's Guide to Landing the Lowest Summer Airfare

Data Reveals Airfares Down, Length of Vacations Up, and that Booking Two Months in Advance Locks in Best Pricing

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--(Marketwired - April 12, 2016) - Gas prices are down, the temperature is heating up, and it seems that travelers are inevitably looking to take advantage of both this summer.

In fact, with all the sunny news about oil prices, you may be itching to plan an escape of your own. But summer is three whole months long, airfare is often priced at a premium, and there tends to be a lot of confusion for travelers around the optimal purchase date to obtain the best deal. 

As of March 31, 2016, overall domestic summer airfare (flights departing and returning during June, July, August) is down 13 percent when compared to the same period in 2015 from a median price of $330 to $286.

Similarly, flights from the US to major European countries -- Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, Switzerland, Austria and Ireland -- follow the same trend: travelers this summer are paying about 15 percent less than last year, from a median price of $1331 to $1129.

And those savings seem to translate into a higher proportion of people planning longer getaways: In 2015, 46 percent of summer vacations that involved flights lasted four days or fewer, while just 33 percent lasted between seven and 10 days. Of summer travel booked through March 31, 2016, however, 40 percent are four days or fewer, while 38 percent are between seven and 10 days, indicating the shift toward longer vacations.

To ensure that the hardest decision you'll have to make this summer season is which umbrella drink you'll order, Hipmunk analyzed historical booking data to find the best time to buy for each summer holiday and by month.

When to Buy: Summer Holiday

An analysis of Hipmunk's historical data found that flights booked at least five to seven weeks in advance of major summer holidays -- Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day -- generally lock in better airfares. Here's how the data breaks down by holiday.

Memorial Day: Buy 5 weeks prior

The kick-off summer holiday weekend is also the second most popular travel time of the season and flight prices rise rapidly. The optimal time to buy according to historical data is five weeks prior to the holiday.

Fourth of July: Buy 6 weeks prior

The most popular time to travel during the summer season is the week leading up to the July 4th holiday. To avoid steep price hikes, it's best to book six weeks prior.

Labor Day: Buy 7 weeks prior

The unofficial end of the summer also has the longest lead time. A safe bet is to purchase tickets toward the end of July when prices are their lowest -- about seven weeks before the holiday weekend. However, if your plans are up in the air, you might be able to secure that same price up to three weeks in advance.

When to Buy: Vacation Month

If your dates are more flexible and you're trying to decide when to buy tickets to score the lowest prices for a particular month, our data showed that there were two times when travelers could optimize their purchasing power: two months before the beginning of summer or five to seven weeks prior to their departure month, with a vacation in August needing the least amount of lead time and a vacation in July the most.

June: Buy by mid-May

July: Buy by first week of June

August: Buy by last week of July

Now that you know the best times to buy for your summer vacation, it's time to start planning. Try Hello Hipmunk, your free personal travel agent, to get instant flight and hotel recommendations straight to your inbox.

For more data and charts, including an interactive graphic that shows the best time to book flights from the top U.S. cities to trending 2016 summer destinations and for Memorial Day, Labor Day and July 4th, visit Hipmunk's blog, Tailwind

ABOUT HIPMUNK

Hipmunk is the fastest, easiest way to plan travel. The site and mobile apps help save time and money by comparing top travel sites to show the perfect flight or hotel at the lowest price. Hipmunk offers the most comprehensive travel search, from commercial flights, trains, and charter flights to hotels and vacation rentals through Airbnb. The unique display makes it easy to visually compare results to choose the best option. Try Hipmunk's new A.I. powered personal travel agent, Hello Hipmunk, to get instant planning and booking recommendations by sending an email to hello@hipmunk.com.

METHODOLOGY

Hipmunk analyzed its historical roundtrip airfare data from the top 30 US airports to determine the best times to purchase airfare.

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