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When is the best time to book a holiday? 10 expert tips on money-saving flights

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Moya Crockett
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The festive season is over, the days are dark, and payday is but a glittering mirage on the horizon. It's no surprise that we all start dreaming of a holiday in January - but is it the best time to book one?

Deciding when to book a getaway is something of a science. 

After analysing data from more than a billion searches on their website, travel search engine, Kayak, found that the price of a flight can be affected by a whole range of factors - from how far ahead it is booked, to the time of year. And crucially, it's not always as easy as: "book far in advance" or "avoid the school holidays".

We took a look at what they found. With these canny tips and a bit of careful planning, you could save a small fortune. Bon voyage... 

1) Fancy a spring break? Book now

Los Angeles

Book a spring trip to L.A. four months ahead of time

For a spring holiday, it’s almost always cheapest to book four to six months in advance. Take Los Angeles, for example: a return trip to La-La Land can cost over a grand, but you can find springtime flights for around £400 if you book four months ahead.

2) Springtime flights are cheapest mid-morning 

Girl flying

11am is the best time to fly in the spring.

Brits wanting to head abroad in the early months of the year should book outbound flights for around 11am. You could save over 66% compared to other times of day – money which you can then spend in duty-free. Result.

3) Book flights over six months ahead for a cheaper summer holiday

Tenerife

The beaches of Tenerife: a classic British summer holiday.

Summer is the most expensive time of year for holidays, but travellers can cut costs by booking flights seven to eight months in advance. Holidaymakers heading to Tenerife or Bangkok, for example, could save more than 60% on flights if they booked over six months ahead.

4) Cheap flights in summer mean setting your alarm EARLY

Tired woman

An early wake-up call - worth it to save money on flights.

The more hideously early the flight, the cheaper it'll be - during the summer months, at least. We're talking 4am early here (shudder). Next time you find yourself stumbling through a too-bright departure lounge in the early hours of the morning, freezing to death because you’re dressed for Greece but still in Gatwick, just think of all the money you're saving. That'll keep you warm.  

5) For an autumn adventure, plan 10  months in advance

Vancouver

Autumn is the perfect time to visit Vancouver - but book ahead.

For some reason, the best autumn deals can usually be found almost a year ahead. Spain is by far the most popular destination for Brits heading abroad over the autumn, and trips to Ibiza, Malaga and Barcelona are all cheapest when booked 9-11 months in advance. It’s the same for more far-flung destinations: you can save up to 30% on flights to Orlando, Sydney, San Francisco and Vancouver by booking 10 months ahead.

6) Winter: t’is the season to be last-minute (but only if you’re going to Europe)

Couple on city break

A winter break in Europe can be booked last-minute.

Winter is the only season where you can regularly find great deals closer to the departure date. It also has the biggest potential savings for Euro-breaks: booking a winter trip to Rome two months in advance can save over 60% on flights. If you’re heading further afield, though – say, to Australia or Asia – it’s still best to book at least four months ahead. 

7) Fly in the afternoon during autumn and winter

Plane

Flying in the afternoon is cheaper later in the year.

Flying in the afternoon is more relaxing than a hellish early start – and during the colder months, it’s much cheaper, too. You can save over 50% on airfares by booking flights that depart after midday, so treat yourself to a lie-in.

8) Avoid travelling at the weekend if possible

Travel planning

It's always cheaper to travel mid-week.

Stating the obvious, perhaps, but weekend flights are always more expensive than mid-week trips, whatever the season. Tuesday and Wednesday are generally the best days for scoring low outbound fares. 

9) Don’t fly out and in on the same day of the week

Girl airport

Avoid flying back and forth on the same weekday.

Flights for a holiday that runs Tuesday-Tuesday, for example, will usually cost more than heading out on a Tuesday and coming back on a Wednesday. Instant justification for booking that extra day off work? You’re welcome.

10) ... Unless it’s autumn

Paris autumn

Spend a week on an autumn holiday.

Don’t ask us why; we don’t make the rules. If you’re going abroad over the autumn, feel free to stick to the standard seven-day trip – flights won’t cost you any more if you fly out and in on the same day of the week. 

Happy holidays!

Photos: Thinkstock

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Moya Crockett

Moya is Women’s Editor at stylist.co.uk, where she is currently overseeing the Visible Women campaign. As well as writing about inspiring women and feminism, she also covers subjects including careers, podcasts and politics. Carrying a tiny bottle of hot sauce on her person at all times is one of the many traits she shares with both Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton.

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