When to buy, when to fly

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Travel is a lot like real estate: Timing and location are the keys to get maximum value. To help you get a better handle on vacation planning, we’ve crunched data from 4.5 million flight searches on Cheapflights.ca to 20 of the most popular destinations to find out when airfares from Canada are at their lowest and their highest — and when the best prices tend to be available for booking.

All our number crunching about the best time to buy flights reveals some key findings:

  • Some destinations (we’re looking at you, Cancun and Costa Rica) are better suited to the last-minute travel planner than others (say Vancouver and Los Angeles, for example).
  • The holiday season is really the most expensive time to fly. The last couple weeks of the year topped the list for priciest flights to all but one destination. It’s best to make your Christmas or New Year’s plans over the summer.
  • It’s not too late to plan a bit of pre-Valentine’s Day romance in Paris, but you better get cracking.
  • If you want to take full advantage of January travel deals (and there are many), make peace with it being next year.
  • Now is the time to focus on spring and summer travel plans.

Scroll down for added guidance on “when to fly” and “when to buy” for each of these destinations:

Toronto, Ontario
Manila, Philippines
London, England
Vancouver, British Columbia
New York, New York, United States
Paris, France
Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Orlando, Florida, United States
Bangkok, Thailand
Calgary, Alberta
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States
Los Angeles, California, United States
Cancun, Mexico
Montreal, Quebec
Beijing, China
Miami, Florida, United States
San Francisco, California, United States
Edmonton, Alberta
San Jose, Costa Rica
Varadero, Cuba

Toronto, Ontario

Toronto Skyline
Robert, Hello, Toronto via Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

On average: Booking 138 days before your flight to Toronto will yield the most affordable ticket prices. That means planning to book a little less than 20 weeks, or roughly five months, before your flight.

Cheapest flights: For the cheapest travel to Toronto, plan ahead for early 2018.
When to fly: The last week of February
When to buy: Last week of September

Peak season: The week leading up to Christmas is the most expensive time to fly to Toronto. Aim to buy: Last week of June.

For summer travel, the priciest time is the week of Canada Day. Aim to buy: Third week of January.

Last-minute deals: Late to the summer planning table? Keep an eye out for late summer deals.
When to fly: The last two weeks of August
When to buy: Three to four weeks earlier

Manila, Philippines

manila skyline
Benson Kua, Storm Over Makati via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.

On average: The best prices can be found throughout the year 124 days before flying, so aim to book less than 18 weeks, or around four and a half months, before your intended departure date.

Cheapest flights: End of summer is prime deal time for travel to the Philippines.
When to fly: The first two weeks of September
When to buy: The fourth week of May

Peak season: The two weeks leading up to Christmas are the most expensive time to fly to Manila. Aim to buy: The last two weeks of June.

Last-minute deals: There are a few chances to get the best fares five or six weeks in advance. The most affordable of those?
When to fly: The third week in October
When to buy: The first week in September

London, England

Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, London
Hernan Pinera, Westminster via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.

On average: The most affordable deals can be found 118 days before a given travel date so plan to book less than 17 weeks, or a little more than four months, ahead of the date you plan to fly.

Cheapest flights: For the best flight deals to London, get an early jump on the summer travel season.
When to fly: The second week of May
When to buy: Mid-April

Peak season: The festive season is the most expensive time to fly to London, especially the week before Christmas. Aim to buy: Last week of August.

For summer travel, the priciest time is the last week of June and the first week of July. Aim to buy: Mid-January.

Last-minute deals: The late summer shoulder season also offers good last-minute bargains.
When to fly: The first two weeks of September
When to buy: Mid-to-late August

Vancouver, British Columbia

vancouver skyline
Colin Knowles, Burrard Bridge from Granville Island via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.

On average: Plan to book your flights 143 days before your intended departure date, which is about 20 weeks, or five months, earlier.

Cheapest flights: Between the holiday season and mid-winter break, you can find some of the best airfares to Vancouver, though it takes some advanced planning.
When to fly: Between mid-January and early February
When to buy: Mid-August

Peak season: The last two weeks of the year are the most expensive time to travel to Vancouver. Aim to buy: The first week of July.

For summer travel, airfares are at their highest from mid-July through mid-August. Aim to buy: Mid-to-late February. (Good news for procrastinators: flights for the third week in July look to break with this pattern. You may find betters deals for the week by shopping in mid-April.)

Last-minute deals: There is a lull before the summer season kicks off, so look for a bargain when the calendar flips to spring.
When to fly: The second week of June
When to buy: The third week of March

Added tip: Get booking now for spring skiing. Early January is the prime deal time for flights in the first week of April.

New York, New York, United States

Midtown Manhattan showing the Empire State Building
Jerry Ferguson, New York Sunset – HDR via Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

On average: Booking your travel 141 days before your departure date will return the most affordable options, so plan to book around 20 weeks, or five months, before takeoff.

Cheapest flights: Advanced planners can score some extremely good flight prices to New York City. Airfares for much of January and February top the list for the most affordable of the year. Plan ahead for the very best deals.
When to fly: The second week of January
When to buy: The first week of August

Peak season: The two weeks leading up to New Year’s Eve are the priciest time to fly to New York. Aim to buy: Mid-August

Last-minute deals: You don’t have to plan too far in advance to stretch your summer with a late-season trip to New York.
When to fly: The second and third week of September
When to buy: The first half of June

Added tip: To get the best deals on a holiday shopping trip to New York, really plan ahead. The best prices for a mid-December flight are available in mid-June.

Paris, France

Paris street scene
Moyan Brenn, Paris via Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

On average: The best deals can be booked 96 days before departure, which is around 14 weeks or three and a half months.

Cheapest flights: Autumn is a bargain window for a visit to Paris.
When to fly: The last week of September
When to buy: Between late May and early June

Peak season: The weeks before and after Christmas are the most expensive times to visit. Aim to buy: Early August for a pre-Christmas trip and the second week of July for a trip between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

As for summer travel, the last week of July and the first week of August are pricey times to visit Paris and require advance planning. Aim to buy: February. The last week of June and the first week of July are better for late shoppers. Aim to buy: Mid-June.

Last-minute deals: Want to add some serious romance to your Valentine’s Day?
When to fly: First two weeks of February
When to buy: Third week of January

Las Vegas, Nevada, United States

Eiffel Tower Experience, Las Vegas at night
DARSHAN SIMHA, The View From My Room via Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

On average: Booking your tickets 132 days before your departure date yields the most affordable fares, so plan to start your search less than 19 weeks (around four and a half to five months) ahead of your travels.

Cheapest flights: Plan ahead for 2018 travel to Las Vegas.
When to fly: Mid-January to mid-February
When to buy: Late August to early September

Peak season: The week between Christmas and New Year’s is prime time for expensive travel to Las Vegas. Aim to buy: The first week of July.

Last-minute deals: The perfect holiday gift might be a last-minute trip to Sin City.
When to fly: The first week of the year
When to buy: The week before Christmas

Orlando, Florida, United States

Downtown Orlando from the river
Chad Sparkes, Orlando Florida via Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

On average: The best airfare deals can be found 104 days before your intended departure date, so start your flight search around 15 weeks, or about three and a half months, out.

Cheapest flights: Travel to Orlando is most affordable while school is still in session.
When to fly: The end of May into early June
When to buy: The third week of April

Peak season: Flights during the week between Christmas and New Year’s are the most expensive, on average. Aim to buy: The third week of July.

As for spring break travel, prices also spike during the second week of March. Aim to buy: Near the end of November.

Last-minute deals: Take advantage of the end-of-summer warmth and the back-to-school season.
When to fly: The second and third week of September.
When to buy: The last 10 days of August.

Added tip: Check flights to Orlando now as some of the best prices for the last week of January can pop up just two weeks earlier.

Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok street scene
Ahron de Leeuw, Bangkok backstreet via Flickr CC BY 2.0.

On average: Booking 122 days before your intended travel date will yield the most affordable results, so plan to book about 17 weeks, or four and a half months, before you hope to travel.

Cheapest flights: Almost all of November is a bargain time to fly to Bangkok with one week ranking as the most affordable for the year.
When to fly: The fourth week of November
When to buy: Early October (Search in mid-September for flights for the first and second weeks of November).

Peak season: The two weeks leading up to Christmas are the most expensive for flights to Bangkok. Aim to buy: At the end of June for travel the week before Christmas and the first week of October for the preceding week.

Summer travel is most expensive from mid-June until the end of July. Aim to buy: Between the second and fourth weeks of February.

Last-minute deals: Flexible about your holiday season travel?
When to fly: The first weeks of December and of January
When to buy: Four to five weeks earlier

Added tip: Try shopping in mid-to-late June for flights between early September and mid-October.

Calgary, Alberta

Calgary skyline in winter
Michael Gil, Foggy Calgary via Flickr CC BY 2.0.

On average: The best fare deals for flights to Calgary are available 118 days before departure, so plan to book your tickets less than 17 weeks, or four months, before you hope to travel.

Cheapest flights: Visit Calgary between mid-January and early February for the best flight prices, on average.
When to fly: The first week in February
When to buy: Early October

Peak season: The last three weeks of the year are the most expensive, with each week growing pricier than the one before. Aim to buy: Mid-to-late July for flights for the two weeks before Christmas and the end of August for travel the week before New Year’s Eve.

Fares in the last two weeks of July and the first week of August top the list of most expensive times to fly in summer. Aim to buy: The first half of February. (Good news for procrastinators: For flights departing the last week of July, you might have luck searching for flights during the first week of July.)

Last-minute deals: While mid-to-late June is edging into peak summer season for travelling, airfares are still relatively affordable, even when booking just a few weeks out.
When to fly: The second full week of June
When to buy: Mid-April

Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States

Ft Lauderdale beach
Daniel Dudek, Beach at Fort Lauderdale via Flickr CC BY 2.0.

On average: The best prices can be found by travellers who book 106 days before their trip, so plan to book your flights 15 weeks, or roughly three and a half months, before your intended travel date.

Cheapest flights: Prices for spring flights bounce around a bit but there are some deals to be found for travel after the March break crowds go home.
When to fly: The first week of April
When to buy: Late February or early March

Peak season: Airfares to Fort Lauderdale jump markedly for travel during the third and fourth weeks of December. Aim to buy: Early-to-mid July.

Last-minute deals: Like many places, Fort Lauderdale is an affordable destination just after the New Year, with some of the best bargains available for booking just a few weeks in advance.
When to fly: The first and second weeks of January
When to buy: The third and fourth weeks of December

Los Angeles, California, United States

Los Angeles skyline at night
www.GlynLowe.com, Los Angeles by Night via Flickr CC BY 2.0.

On average: Booking your flights 142 days before take off provides the best deals, so plan to book 20 weeks, or five months, before your departure date.

Cheapest flights: Why not spend early spring in sunny Los Angeles? There is a stretch of affordable weeks in April and early May.
When to fly: The first week of May
When to buy: Mid-January

Peak season: The weeks before Christmas and New Year’s Eve top the chart as the most expensive times to fly to Los Angeles. Aim to buy: Late June or early July.

Airfares also jump for flights to L.A. the last week of July and the first week of August. Aim to buy: Between late February and early March.

Last-minute deals: Late January is one of the few times of the year when you can head to Los Angeles without months and months of planning.
When to fly: Last two weeks of January
When to buy: Mid-November

Cancun, Mexico

beach and pier in Cancun
Sony Thomas, Cancun via Flickr CC BY 2.0.

On average: Booking flights 92 days before you intend to travel will yield the most affordable fares, so plan to start your flight search 13 weeks, or roughly three months, ahead of your travels.

Cheapest flights: Mid-autumn is a great time to visit Cancun on the cheap and also an ideal opportunity for a last-minute getaway.
When to fly: The last two weeks of October
When to buy: One or two weeks earlier

Peak season: From mid-December to the end of the year, flight prices are at their highest, peaking between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Aim to buy: First week of August.

The last week of July and the first two weeks of August also rank among the most expensive times to visit Cancun. Aim to buy: Early-to-mid March, though if you miss that window, try searching in the third week of June for flights in the first week of August.

Last-minute deals: Kick off February in Cancun.
When to fly: The first week of February
When to buy: The last days of January

Added tip: The first week of December is another window for late deals, with many of the best flight prices popping up just days beforehand.

Montreal, Quebec

Montreal street scene
Pedro Szekely, Montreal, Canada via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0.

On average: The most affordable fares can be booked 140 days before departure, so plan to book exactly 20 weeks, or around five months, before you hope to fly to Montreal.

Cheapest flights: Montreal in wintertime is a good option for deal hunters.
When to fly: The last week of January
When to buy: The first week of September

Peak season: As with other destinations, the weeks before and after Christmas are the most expensive times to fly to Montreal. Aim to buy: The first week of July for a visit leading up to New Year’s and the first week of August for travel just before Christmas.

Summer is also a peak time for airfares, especially during the last two weeks of July and the first two weeks of August. Aim to buy: Late January for travel in late July and mid-February for a visit in early August.

Last-minute deals: Keep an eye out in the first weeks of spring for good fares around Victoria Day.
When to fly: The fourth week of May
When to buy: Late March

Beijing, China

Great Hall in Beijing at night
Yiannis Theologos Michellis, 20150427_122042 via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0.

On average: The most affordable fares are available 105 days before departure, so plan to book you travel 15 weeks, or just less than four months, ahead of the start of your trip.

Cheapest flights: To stretch your travel budget all the way to Beijing, plan an autumn visit.
When to fly: Anytime in November
When to buy: Mid- September (You may be able to score deals for some dates in November with as little as two week’s notice, but make sure you build in enough time for the visa process).

Peak season: The two weeks leading up to Christmas is the most expensive time for heading to Beijing. Aim to buy: Early August.

The average airfares for a visit in the last three weeks of June are almost as costly as the week before the Christmas holiday. Aim to buy: Late December or early January.

Last-minute deals: Keep an eye out for a deal in late summer if you can swing this journey with just a few weeks of planning.
When to fly: The third week of September
When to buy: The fourth week of August

Miami, Florida, United States

Miami skyline
Mohmed Althani, Miami & Fisher Island from 500 ft via Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

On average: The best fares are available for purchase 125 days before departure, so plan to book your travels just short of 18 weeks, or about four and a half months, before you plan to travel.

Cheapest flights: April is both a lovely and affordable time to head to Miami.
When to fly: The last week of April
When to buy: The fourth week of March

Peak season: Spending the last two weeks of the year in the sun is the priciest proposition. Aim to buy: Mid-July.

Last-minute deals: April is the best window for late deals, but you can get some of the most affordable winter prices with relatively little advanced planning if you aim for a trip early in the year.
When to fly: Second and third weeks of January
When to buy: Mid-to-late October

San Francisco, California, United States

Downtown San Francisco at night
jason jenkins, Good Night San Francisco via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0.

On average: Booking your trip 126 days before you intend to travel will give you the best prices, so plan to book your flights 18 weeks, or about four and a half months, before you plan to take off.

Cheapest flights: Springtime is bargain time for travel to the City by the Bay.
When to fly: The first week of April
When to buy: Mid-January

Peak season: The week between Christmas and New Year’s tops the list for the most expensive time to travel to San Francisco. Aim to buy: The second week of August.

As for summer travel, the last two weeks of July are a particularly expensive time to fly. Aim to buy: The third week of February.

Last-minute deals: For a more last-minute getaway, think about an early summer trip.
When to fly: The first week of June
When to buy: The second week of April

Edmonton, Alberta

Edmonton skyline at night
Kurt Bauschardt, Edmonton Skyline via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0.

On average: The most affordable flights can be found 121 days before departure, so plan to book flights to Edmonton about 17 weeks, or four and a half months, before your intended travel date.

Cheapest flights: Shop mid winter for flights in early summer.
When to fly: The first full week of June
When to buy: The second week of February

Peak season: On average, the priciest flights to Edmonton are the week before Christmas, and the week after Christmas isn’t much cheaper. Aim to buy: The second week of July for a visit leading up to Christmas and the first week of October for flights the week prior to New Year’s.

The height of summer is also pricey, with the first three weeks of July topping the charts at that time of year in terms of average airfare cost. Aim to buy: Mid-February for travel the first and third weeks of July, and the third week of May for a trip in the second week of July.

Last-minute deals: Close out the summer with a September trip.
When to fly: The second week of September
When to buy: Late July

San Jose, Costa Rica

San Jose, Costa Rica in distance
Nelson de Witt, San Jose, Costa Rica via Flickr CC BY-SA .20.

On average: Booking travel 94 days before takeoff yields the best airfare deals, so plan to book your tickets around 13 weeks, or around three and a half months, before you plan to travel.

Cheapest flights: September and October are prime times for affordable flights to San Jose.
When to fly: The third week in September
When to buy: Late August

Peak season: The last two weeks of the year are the priciest time to travel, with the week before Christmas being the most expensive of all. Aim to buy: Early July.

Last minute deals: Costa Rica is a good spot for a last minute winter break.
When to fly: The last week of March
When to buy: Mid-to-late March

Varadero, Cuba

person walking on beach
Vlad Podvorny, en rose via Flickr CC BY 2.0.

On average: Booking flights 117 days before your trip will offer the best price deals, so start planning your trip around 17 weeks, or four months, before you plan to travel.

Cheapest flights: March is a good time to escape the cold with a trip to Varadero.
When to fly: The first week of March
When to buy: The first week of December

Peak season: While the weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year’s are among the most expensive times for flights, the average airfare for the last week of July is the priciest of all. Aim to buy (summer peak): The second week of March for travel at the end of July and late March and early April for a visit in early August. Aim to buy (holiday peak): The third week of October for a flight the week leading up to Christmas and the last week in July for travel the following week.

Last minute deals: These are a couple of windows when the best deals are often available just days in advance.
When to fly: The third week of March
When to buy: The first half of March

Feature: iStock photo/BraunS

This data is based on averages from departure points across Canada and is intended as a guideline only. Now that you know when to fly and when to buy, get a start on your flight search at Cheapflights.ca. Let us know where you’ll be going in 2017 in the comments or on Twitter.

When to buy, when to fly was last modified: April 21st, 2017 by Jess Hopper
Author: Jess Hopper (28 posts)

Jess is a traveller and writer currently putting down roots in Boston as the Content and Social Media Executive for Cheapflights Canada. Originally from New England, she has also called France and New Zealand home. She has visited 22 countries including Portugal, Morocco, Turkey, Indonesia and South Africa.