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The cheapest times to fly for Australians

Find out the times, days and months to book so you get more bang for your buck.

Cheap travel isn’t hard to come by if you know when and where to look – and when you’re open to keeping your itinerary flexible.

Booking on and for certain dates in the week, for example, could be all you need to do to shave a couple of bucks off your holiday expenses.

Book in advance or fly during the off season and you could save a even more than a couple of bucks… to spend when you’re away, obviously.

HOT TIP: If you can, tick the "flexible dates" option when searching for flights. This way you can see if flying a day before or after could be cheaper than flying on your nominated date.

Planning a trip soon? Here’s when you should fly to nab a cheap as chips flight:


When to fly in the day

Generally speaking, early morning flights, lunch time flights or late night flights are the cheapest. This is quite possibly because of the lack of transport that some airports offer at these times.

As well as getting a cheap ticket for an early morning flight, if you’re flying locally you could also arrive in your destination earlier, meaning you have more time to explore on your first day. The negative – and possibly another reason why these flights are cheaper – is that if you’re flying further, you’ll likely spend the day in the air.

Meanwhile, the most expensive flights in the day are in the evening between 5pm and 9pm. This timeframe means you can sleep on the plane and won’t have to take the day off work to fly.

To give you an example of how flight prices change throughout the day, this graph is based on airfares for domestic carriers travelling Sydney to Melbourne on Wednesday 6 July 2016. Prices are accurate at the time of writing and times used were taken to the nearest 15 minutes:


When to fly in the week

The best times to fly fall during the working week - particularly on Tuesday or Wednesday. Prices peak on Friday evening and Sunday evening or Monday morning for those looking to go on a weekend getaway without having to cash in their annual leave. If you’ve got the leave to spare or some time in lieu, try and fly out on a Tuesday or Wednesday, as they’re the least popular days due to them being in the middle of the working week. Saturday is also an option as it’s in the middle of the weekend. Here’s a look at how flight prices change during the week on domestic carriers. The prices used are the lowest prices on each carrier for the week of 3-9 July 2016 flying Sydney to Melbourne.


When to fly in the year

Generally, wherever you’re eyeing the best time to fly to it is during your destination’s off-peak season. This could mean during the monsoon season if you’re headed to Asia, or during winter if you’re headed to an island resort.

If those options don’t appeal to you, work with shoulder seasons (the time just before or after peak season). Sometimes you can get lucky weather-wise and the prices will not be as high as if you flew in during the peak.

Peak season tends to fall during the school holidays, Christmas holidays, days of significance (e.g. Chinese New Year) or snow season (if it’s a popular skiing destination).

Below is a snapshot of the cheapest months to fly to some of the most popular destinations for Australian travellers. Destinations are chosen from ABS data on Australian departures for April 2016. Flight prices have been gathered through Skyscanner by choosing the “cheapest month” option for departures from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

The cheapest months to fly to set destinations:

BaliQueenstownAucklandLos AngelesBangkokPhuketLondonTokyoSingaporeNadi (Fiji)Hong Kong
JanuaryYes
FebruaryYesYes
MarchYesYesYesYes
AprilYesYesYes
MayYesYes
June
JulyYesYes
AugustYesYesYesYesYesYes
SeptemberYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
OctoberYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
NovemberYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
DecemberYes

When to book for cheap flights

Timing is everything and when it comes to the booking cheap flights there are times that work better than others. According to Skyscanner, generally, the earlier you book the more you'll save though booking approximately 17 weeks prior to departure can save you up to 5% off flights on many international departures. Some exceptions to this rule include closer destinations like New Zealand and Singapore which you can still get cheaply up to 11 weeks in advance.

A similar pattern follows for domestic flights. Book 15-17 weeks in advance for long-haul domestic (e.g. Sydney to Perth) and you can save up to 25%. Book 5-11 weeks on shorter haul flights (e.g. Sydney to Brisbane or Melbourne to Brisbane) and again, you're looking to save up to 25% off.

As to what day is best to book flights Business Insider suggests the weekends or Tuesday. This is because most business travellers book their weekend trips during the week so weekends are opened up to leisure travellers searching for cheap flights. It's also worth it to keep on top of regular sale periods for specific carriers such as Virgin Australia Happy Hour, Wotif Flyday and Jetstar Friday Frenzy.



Searching for cheap flights?

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Stephanie Yip

Stephanie is a journalist, avid traveller and all-round bargain hunter. If there's an online coupon code, deal or cheap flight available, she'll know about it. And she'll let you know about it, too.

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