Once January comes around, most people have hit post-holiday travel fatigue. But there are reports that claim January is the best time to book inexpensive flights. So, if you’re thinking of your next trip, is January really the best month to score cheap plane tickets?
According to data from travel site Hipmunk, January has the lowest median domestic flight booking price, compared with any other month.
“The things that matter most for getting a good deal are when you travel and how far in advance you’re booking.”
– David Solomito, vice president of North America marketing for travel site Kayak
“Broadly speaking,” January is one of the cheapest months to book, David Solomito, vice president of North America marketing for travel site Kayak, told HuffPost. However, two factors in your travel plans matter a lot more than picking a random month to buy a plane ticket.
“What you’re saying is true, but there’s nothing magic or special about January,” Solomito said. “The things that matter most for getting a good deal are when you travel and how far in advance you’re booking.”
Kayak found that for international travel, its data show that people book about three months in advance. That means in January, their travel dates are for March and April, which are among the cheaper months to travel, compared with peak summer months and the holidays. Solomito suggested this could be why January often offers cheap flights.
He recommended pinpointing where and when you want to go to get a better deal. According to Kayak’s 2019 Travel Hacker Guide, U.S. travelers should book domestic flights one month ahead. The guide generally recommends booking tickets three months in advance for Central America, five months for Africa, and six months for Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
Skyscanner offered similar suggestions in its 2019 guide about “the best time to book flights from the United States.” It recommends booking a domestic flight two to three weeks ahead, and an international trip five to six months in advance.
“It’s not like the Black Friday of the year.”
– Liana Corwin, consumer travel expert for travel app Hopper
Data from travel app Hopper also found that prices drop in January after the holidays because of low demand, said Liana Corwin, consumer travel expert for the site. That makes January a good time to book flights, especially for travel through the remainder of winter.
But don’t necessarily expect to find a great deal in January for summer travel or for holidays more than six months out, Corwin said.
“It’s not like the Black Friday of the year,” she said.
Travel agents get a different kind of in-depth look at flight trends. Stacy Small, founder and CEO of boutique luxury travel firm Elite Travel International, said she wouldn’t give January the top honor for cheap flights.
“I’ll stand by my theory,” she said. “Flight prices change overnight.”
Small did point out that there are “decent fares” in January, because there’s good availability for popular destinations. Still, flight prices are simply too erratic to claim January should be the go-to month to book.
Cindy Goldberger, travel adviser for Brooklyn, New York-based agency Hiatus, said that when clients come to her after the holidays with travel plans, she’s not always able to find low numbers for certain flights.
“There are just too many factors that affect the cost of airfare,” Goldberger said via email. “Just like any time of the year, it all depends on the destination and how far out someone is booking.”
“I’ll stand by my theory. Flight prices change overnight.”
– Stacy Small, founder and CEO of boutique luxury travel firm Elite Travel International
Still, there is one thing many travel experts agree on: January is a great time to travel.
“January historically is the cheapest month to fly for both domestic and international destinations, with domestic airfare 31 percent lower on average than peak summertime booking prices,” Hipmunk said in its “When to Go 2019” report.
“January, in general, is a great month to travel,” said Corwin. “Historically, prices drop after the holidays, and this January has been no different.”
So, if you want to keep the travel budget low, it could be worth trading an expensive end-of-year holiday vacation for a trip just a few weeks later in January.
This story has been updated to include new information about Hipmunk’s data.