Here's The Best Time To Book Your International Flights For Summer 2024

Benjamin Franklin once said that in this world, nothing is certain except death, taxes, and that summer travel is always going to be expensive. Fine, he probably did not say the last bit, but there's no denying it rings true today. Per popular booking platform, Hopper, flights to Europe in the summer of 2023 cost $1,167 on average, while airfare for trips to Asia set travelers back an average of $1,817. Travel experts say it will likely be the same for summer 2024, so if you plan to head overseas during the warmer months, you may want to book your trip as early as January.

Scott Keyes, founder of Going (a flight deal alert service), advises travelers to book their respective summer international vacations during the "Goldilocks Window," around four to eight months ahead of the trip. He told Consumer Affairs that generally, the best time to book flights is on the first month of the year, and if you wait until, say, April, or maybe even at the last minute, finding an affordable flight can be extra tricky. Expedia's study seconds this, noting that you can save 10% on airfare if you book your international trip six months in advance. Google Flights offers the same recommendation, suggesting that the best prices are available 129 days, or roughly four months, before the trip.

With all this in mind, it's pretty clear: Being the early bird isn't just about catching the worm; it's about catching a flight that won't hurt your budget.

There's such a thing as booking too early

While the general consensus for booking international flights for the summer is to do it sooner rather than later, doing so too early comes at a price — literally. A 2023 report from CheapAir found that if you choose to book your flights as soon as airlines release tickets or around 212 to 310 days in advance, you stand to lose out on some deals that may come in the future. It's actually a common flight booking mistake. The silver lining, however, is you have a wealth of options to choose from if you book this early. You have all the options to select your preferred flight time, seats, and more, as opposed to facing the fierce competition and pressure often tied to booking deals among throngs of travelers.

On the flip side, if you choose to book at the earliest possible time for your peace of mind, one way you can save money is to book your flight with a credit card equipped with price-drop protection. With this money-saving feature, you can be reimbursed for the price difference (or at least part of it) should the cost of your flight plunge post-booking. Another option is to secure a refundable flight or one without any cancellation fees. If you find better deals for your chosen flight after you've hit book, you can simply cancel the previous flight without taking a serious financial hit and book the new flight at a discount.

If you miss the best booking window, try a travel dupe or 'second city'

In case you've chosen to bide your time and discover down the line that travel deals are slim pickings for your summer 2024 overseas escapades, don't fret. You can still book a relatively inexpensive trip if you opt for dupe destinations instead. These places have more or less a similar vibe to the top tourist spots, except that you won't encounter as many crowds. "If you are looking to save money on your next trip, consider an alternate destination," Hayley Berg, lead economist at Hopper, told CNBC. "Oftentimes you can save on airfare and hotel rates by picking a destination off the beaten track." Expedia recommends trading Seoul, Korea, for Taipei, Taiwan; swapping Santorini for Paros, Greece; and opting for Quebec, Canada, instead of Geneva, Switzerland, among a swath of other possibilities.

Alternatively, if your heart is set on being in close proximity to the hottest tourist hubs, consider making your way to what travel expert Rick Steves dubs "second cities." Speaking with The Seattle Times, he said, "One thing I would remind people of is that, a lot of times, second cities are a good idea ... Everybody goes to Lisbon, why not check out Porto? Everybody goes to Madrid, why not check out Cordoba?" These places may not be as hyped, but if you give them a chance, you may find that they're just as amazing, offering a unique and less-explored charm.