When To Buy

Qtrip’s 2021 Airfare Study: International Flights


May 4, 2021

If you weren’t sure whether we’d be seeing international travel in 2021, you’re certainly not alone. But with vaccines widely available, and a recent announcement by the E.U. that borders will be open to Americans as soon as this summer, it seems like a distinct possibility. Get ready to grab your vaccine passport and let’s dig into international travel!

How we crunch the numbers

Qtrip.com examined more than 917 million airfares across thousands of markets in every region in the world to provide you with data to help you purchase your next international flight.

We aim to make buying your flight simple and straightforward: with a clear and comprehensive flight display, excellent help when you need it, and alternatives for payment that go beyond the traditional. Our International Airfare Study has all the insights you need to purchase the right ticket for your next trip.

This report covers:
· When to buy your airline ticket to save the most money
· The best time to buy a flight in order to get the best combination of choice and affordability
· The most and least expensive months to travel
· How seasonality can impact airfare

international when to buy infographic

Canada
The official “Best Day to Buy” for Canadian travel is about 2 months out from your travel dates. Last year, you could book quite early and still get some of the best fares, but this year we’re recommending a longer wait based on the data.

Prime Booking Window: 1.5 months to 3.5 months before departure
Best time to buy: About 58 days out from your travel date
The average airfare: $436
Cheapest months to travel: October and November
Most expensive months to travel: March and June
Least expensive day of the week to fly: Tuesday, Wednesday
Seasonality: To get the best fares and most choice in flights and amenities for the fall, you’ll want to look at buying around 3 months out. For every other season, you can afford to wait a bit longer. Planning a ski trip or summer vacation? Right around two months out is the sweet spot for buying your airfare.

Mexico
Airfares to Mexico are slightly more than last year, which tracks considering Mexico was essentially open to vacationers throughout the pandemic and it continues to trend as a popular international destination for North American travelers. Mexico’s best day to buy is about 2 months from your planned departure.

Prime Booking Window: 1.5 months to 4 months before departure
Best time to buy: About 64 days out from your travel date
The average airfare: $535
Cheapest month to travel: October
Most expensive month to travel: December
Least expensive day of the week to fly: Tuesday, Wednesday
Seasonality: In Spring, summer and fall buying around 2-3 months out will most likely get you an affordable flight. Winter flights should be bought earlier for the best prices – about 4.5 months from departure.

Caribbean
The Caribbean is a great destination in 2021 if you’re planning a relatively last-minute international trip. You can book less than 2 months out from your travel dates and get great value on ticket price. Average ticket prices are slightly less than last year – an always pleasant trend! The one caveat is that we recommend booking earlier for Christmas (as always) and for the spring break months of February and March.

Prime Booking Window: 1.5 months to 3 months before departure
Best time to buy: About 69 days out from your travel date
The average airfare: $575
Cheapest month to travel: October
Most expensive month to travel: December
Least expensive day of the week to fly: Tuesday, Wednesday
Seasonality: Booking affordable flights to the Caribbean does not require an early search (unless you’re looking at Christmas or spring break). In addition, the most affordable season to travel (summer) is still only about $30 less on average than the most expensive season (winter).

Central America
Great news for travelers! Central America flights should be about what they were last year for international travelers.

Prime Booking Window: Just over half a month to 3 months before departure
Best time to buy: About 68 days out from your travel date
The average airfare: $643
Cheapest month to travel: September
Most expensive month to travel: December
Least expensive day of the week to fly: Wednesday, Tuesday
Seasonality: Central America’s flights have a bit more volatility than usual, a trend that holds up through a lot of other regions depending on seasonality for 2021. The summer months are going to be the most expensive, and are about $100 more than the least expensive season, winter. The best time to buy for Central American countries is 2.5 months out summer, 5 months for fall, 7.5 months for winter, and 9 months for spring!

South America
South America is still a very popular destination for 2021, and prices have only ticked slightly higher – about $40 more per ticket than they were in 2020!

Prime Booking Window: 1.5 months to just under 4 months before departure
Best time to buy: About 80 days out from your travel date
The average airfare: $999
Cheapest month to travel: November
Most expensive month to travel: January
Least expensive day of the week to fly: Wednesday, Tuesday
Seasonality: We’re seeing a big difference in when you should buy when we factor in seasonality for South America. Plan to buy your ticket earliest if you’re flying in Spring – you’ll need to be looking close to 9 months out. Fall travelers should start looking for good deals in the 4.5 month range, and winter travelers should be looking at the 7 month mark. A summer trip can wait – you’ll find the best fares at around 2.5 months out from travel.

Europe
Europe’s prices are up from last year. The most expensive months to travel to Europe are the summer months, with June almost $500 more per ticket on average than the least expensive month of November. If you have your heart set on summer in Europe, consider August, when fares are about $200 less on average than June or July.

Prime Booking Window: Just under 2 months to just over 9 months before departure
Best time to buy: About 120 days out from your travel date
The average airfare: $1,580
Cheapest month to travel: February
Most expensive month to travel: June
Least expensive day of the week to fly: Tuesday, Wednesday
Seasonality: Europe’s seasonality factor is all over the board. If you’re flying in the summer you can wait the longest and still get a good fare – around 2.5 months out we still see good fares. Fall trips see good fares around 5 months out from your travel dates, and winter flights are best bought about 7 months out. Planning a spring trip, you’ll need to start shopping about nine months from your travel dates.

Africa
More than any other region in the study, Africa has the most amount of volatility overall. You should buy your fares a good 7-10 months out to get the best fares and selection for spring and winter, and only about 2.5 months out for summer. The average airfare has gone up about $200 since last year.

Prime Booking Window: 1.5 months to 10.5 months before departure
Best time to buy: About 96 days out from your travel date
The average airfare: $1,542
Cheapest month to travel: November
Most expensive month to travel: July
Least expensive day of the week to fly: Tuesday, Wednesday
Seasonality: If your trip is planned for the summer, you have a bit more wiggle room to find a good deal. Some of the best fares for the summer months can be found around 2.5 months from travel.

South Pacific
South Pacific destination flight prices are much more expensive on average than they were last year, with 2020 flights projected to be around $500 more than they were in 2020. This may be residual effects of the rock bottom fares we saw in 2020, due to the pandemic.

Prime Booking Window: 2.5 months to 9 months before departure
Best time to buy: About 117 days out from your travel date
The average airfare: $2,113
Cheapest month to travel: February
Most expensive month to travel: December
Least expensive day of the week to fly: Tuesday, Wednesday
Seasonality: Travelers should pay close attention to seasons in the South Pacific, because when to buy for best value is definitely a mixed bag. In the spring, you should shop about two months out, in the summer and fall around 3 months from departure, and in the winter 4.5 months from departure to capture the best deals.

Asia
Asia flights are more expensive than they were last year, but Asia does have a relatively wide window where you can find good value. From 2.5 months to 6.5 months, whenever you shop you’ll likely find a reasonable airfare. Even though Asia was the initially hardest hit by COVID-19, much of the continent has it very much under control these days, which may partly explain the spike in prices.

Prime Booking Window: 2.5 months to 6.5 months before departure
Best time to buy: Around 119 days out from your travel date
The average airfare: $1,643
Cheapest month to travel: February
Most expensive month to travel: June
Least expensive day of the week to fly: Tuesday, Wednesday
Seasonality: Winter travelers should be looking around 4.5 months out for the best deals, while spring travelers can find deals under 2 months in advance.

Middle East
Prices to destinations around the Middle East have gone up this year, on average about $100, but the booking window is wide enough that you can find good value as close as around 1.5 months from your travel dates.

Prime Booking Window: 1.5 months to 5.5 months before departure
Best time to buy: Around 67 days out from your travel date
The average airfare: $1,332
Cheapest month to travel: November
Most expensive month to travel: June
Least expensive day of the week to fly: Tuesday, Wednesday
Seasonality: When traveling to Middle Eastern countries in the spring, you can actually wait the longest to find good fares (around 50 days out from your proposed trip). If you have a winter trip in mind, start the search much sooner, around 5 months out if you can.

Staying stateside in 2021? We get that too. As you take your first post-pandemic trip, staying a little closer to home can be an attractive option. Whichever way you decide to go – we’ve got you covered! Don’t forget to check out our Domestic Airfare Study for the best time to buy flights in the U.S.

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