What is the Goldilocks Window of Cheap Flights?

The Goldilocks Window of cheap flights is that window—not too early or too late—when you are mostly likely to see a great fare.

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Ask five self-proclaimed "travel expects" when the best time to book a cheap flight is and you'll get a a variety of answers. Some still cling to the outdated notion that there's a specific day and time, like Tuesdays at 1pm. Others use faulty logic to determine a specific number of days in advance, like exactly 34 days.

But those are wrong and make a key mistake. If you expect airfare to be the cheapest at a specific date or on a specific day of the week, you could be missing out on dozens or hundreds of amazing fares on other days.

The better strategy is not to look on a specific day, but during a specific window of time when cheap flights are most likely to be found. We call this the Goldilocks Window.

What is the Goldilocks Window?

The Goldilocks Window is the time before a flight when you are most likely to see an amazing deal pop up. We're talking paying $300 roundtrip to Paris from NYC instead of $800, or $400 roundtrip to Tokyo from LA instead of $900.

For domestic flights, this window is normally 1 to 3 months before your travel dates. For international trips, it’s 2 to 8 months prior.

However, if your trip is during a peak travel period (Christmas, summer, spring break, St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin, the Olympics in Paris) add a couple months to those windows.

Why is the Goldilocks Window the best time to book?

Airlines know that people who book really far out for a trip likely have set plans, like an event, that require them to be in that place. So fares are often higher when the seats are first released. Airlines also know that the people likely to book last-minute are business travelers who have to get to their destination regardless of price. This means fares typically rise the closer the departure date gets.

The Goldilocks Window is the sweet spot, when the travel dates aren't super far out, but they also aren't coming up really soon.

Should I book as soon as I hit the Goldilocks Window?

No, you should not book as soon as you enter the Goldilocks Window. This just means it's time to start keeping a close eye on airfare so that you can book when there's a great price. Or, you can join Going and we'll watch fares for you and let you know where there's a great deal departing from your airports.

Last updated Jan 17, 2024