The summer months of June through August are peak travel season. Even if it's not high season in the particular place you're flying to, a global increase in demand for flights departing from the US, Canada, and other parts of the global north means that prices for summer flights soar no matter where you’re going. And that's especially true this summer, with more people traveling this summer than over the past two summers, plus the double whammy of higher gas prices.
That doesn't mean you can't find great fares for this summer. You just have to be savvy about it.
If you can only travel in summer—or simply prefer to travel during the summer months—this guide is for you. Here are our expert tips for finding cheap(er) summer flights.
How to find cheap summer flights
1. The farther in advance you can book, the more you'll save.
We typically recommend booking international flights 2-8 months in advance (and domestic flights 3-6 months in advance) but during peak times your chances of finding a great fare increase the further out you start looking—especially if your dates and destination are firm—so we recommend increasing this window to 4-10 months.
Of course, if it's May or June, you're nearly past that window for summer flights, but that doesn't mean you have to overpay. As the trip gets to be within one or two months, generally the sooner you book, the better. And once you’re within a few weeks of departure, prices will soar.
>> Read more about the best time to book a flight
2. Go at the beginning or end of the season.
If you don’t have kids, or they start or end their school year just a bit later or earlier than the norm, schedule your trip for the very beginning of the season (early June) or end of the season (late August), as these times tend to be when prices are lower. Prices peak in July.
For example, in 2021, we sent our Premium members 309 deals for flights with June availability and 464 deals with August availability, compared to 194 deals with July availability.
3. Adjust your price expectations.
We regularly send our members notice of flights to Europe in the $400s, $300s, and even $200s roundtrip. And while we do sometimes find flights to Europe for summer travel in this range, these prices are less prevalent from June through August. A good deal for flights to Europe during peak season may be more like $500-$700, depending on your departure and destination airports. The same logic applies to other destinations as well.
4. Focus on getting to the continent as cheaply as possible.
When pickings are slim for cheap flights to your final destination, we recommend what we call the Greek Islands Trick. To start, open up Google Flights and use the Explore map to find the cheapest place you can reach from your airport; you can look at the whole world or search by continent.
If, for example, you want to go to Prague, you could narrow your search to Europe. You might see that flights to Prague are $1,200, but flights to Paris are $800. From Paris you can hop a cheap regional flight for about $100, which means this two-step booking process could save you $300 per ticket.
You can do it on this side of the ocean, too. If you live in Chattanooga and see that tickets to London are $1,100 from your airport but $750 from NYC, you could buy a separate flight to NYC from your home airport and then connect to the cheaper international flight.
5. Be flexible on where/when you go.
When prices are high, the more flexible you can be, the more you can save. In addition to using the Google Flights Explore map to find the cheapest place to go, you can also search flexible dates and choose based on the lowest prices. Sites like Google Flights and Kayak will show you fares for 60 days at a time; sometimes adjusting your dates by just a few days can save you a significant amount.
6. Use the 24-hour rule to lock in a great fare when you see one.
Airfare pricing is very volatile and most deals don’t last long any time of year. When you see a great fare, you have to act fast. But what if you aren’t sure about the dates, or need to request time off or line up childcare? Thankfully, there’s the 24-hour rule. This US Department of Transportation rule means that nearly all airlines operating flights to or from the US will allow you to cancel a flight within 24 hours of booking (so long as you booked at least 7 days before departure). While the regulation only applies to flights booked directly with the airline, many OTAs have their own versions.
This means you can snag a great fare and you’ll have 24 hours to decide if you want to or are able to take the trip. If not, you can cancel and get a full refund.
7. Use your points.
If you’re been saving up your credit card points or airline frequent flyer miles, now is the time to cash them in. Summer can be a great time of year to use miles and points for award flights, since cheap cash flights are rare. You’ll get way more value from a 60k roundtrip award flight in July than you do in October
8. Sign up for Going.
We search flights 24/7 and alert our 2 million members when we find amazing deals departing from their chosen airports. Our members save $550 per ticket on average.
>> Join now.
How summer 2023 travel will be different
International destinations provide some of the best value for summer travel deals
Airlines have a lot of seats to sell and while there's so much interest and millions of people will be traveling, a lot of that will be domestic. International travel still isn't back to pre-pandemic levels. This means destinations are relatively less crowded, prices are lower, and you have a great chance of snagging an international deal.
Cancellations, lines, and delays may be more common, especially on certain airlines
Throughout the travel and hospitality industries, from airlines and airports to car rental offices to hotels and restaurants, businesses are dealing with staffing shortages, so you can generally expect to encounter some delays and long lines throughout your travels. Some airlines have already started cutting back on flights based on lagging demand, which means you may see your scheduled flight change (and remember, if the airline significantly alters your schedule, you can get a full refund).
Booking with certain credit cards can give you more protection
Many credit cards, particularly those with travel perks, offer travel protections that can cover you in the event of trip interruption or cancellation. They'll cover things like replacement clothes if your luggage is lost or delayed, hotel rooms or car rentals if your flight is canceled or delayed, or even a replacement flight.