Vacation planner: When to book flights to 25 top destinations

Jan. 31 is National Plan for Vacation Day, and there’s no time like the present to search for flights, right? Well, if you want to find the best deals, travel is a lot like real estate: timing, location and shopping around are the keys to get maximum value. While it would be nice to pin down that exact, elusive time when flight prices are always at their cheapest, the truth is there is no one perfect time to book. Oftentimes flight prices depend on a variety of factors, from seasonality to demand to location. The best advice is to start early and do your research, which is why vacation planning is key. To get you started, we looked at 25 of the most popular destinations to find out how far out (on average) you may want to book that flight.

Here are some key findings:

  • Some destinations (we’re looking at you, Cabo and London) are better suited to the procrastinating travel planner than others (say Los Angeles, New York or Chicago, for example). However, it’s better to book a flight when you find a great price then wait longer and hope it gets cheaper. 
  • Now is the best time to focus on spring and summer travel plans, so use this as motivation to start planning that much-needed trip.
  • While last-minute deals can be found, they aren’t guaranteed. So, if you know you want to travel during a particular time of the year or to a particular destination, plan ahead.
  • Always remember: If you’re planning travel for peak season or holidays, you should book even further out.

Let’s make 2017 the year you use all your vacation days — our vacation planner can help you get started…

2017 Vacation Planner

Destination How far in advance to book, on average
London, UK 84 days (2.75 months)
Cabo, Mexico 86 days (2.75 months)
Maui, Hawaii 98 Days (3.25 months)
San Jose, Costa Rica 101 days (3.25 months)
Montego Bay, Jamaica 102 days (3.25 months)
Sydney, Australia 104 days (3.5 months)
Honolulu, Hawaii 105 days (3.5 months)
Orlando, Fla. 109 days (3.5 months)
Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 115 days (4 months)
Tampa, Fla. 116 days (4 months)
Miami, Fla. 118 days (4 months)
Manila, Philippines 123 days (4.25 months)
Seattle, Wash. 123 days (4.25 months)
Dallas, Texas 124 days (4.25 months)
Las Vegas, Nev. 128 days (4.25 months)
Phoenix, Ariz. 128 days (4.25 months)
San Diego, Calif. 128 days (4.25 months)
Atlanta, Ga. 129 days (4.25 months)
Cancun, Mexico 129 days (4.25 months)
Denver, Colo. 131 days (4.5 months)
San Juan, Puerto Rico 132 days (4.5 months)
Los Angeles, Calif. 134 days (4.5 months)
New York, N.Y. 135 days (4.5 months)
San Francisco, Calif. 137 days (4.5 months)
Chicago, Ill. 145 days (4.75 months)

*This data is based on averages from departure points across the U.S. and is intended as a guideline only.

Where will you be going in 2017? Let us know in the comments.

Feature: iStock photo/BraunS

Related
Americans’ top vacation moments

Americans’ top vacation moments

Our American Travel Pulse as it captures the emotional heartbeat of the nation's vacations.
Melisse Hinkle
QUIZ: Will you survive this summer without a vacation?

QUIZ: Will you survive this summer without a vacation?

It’s summertime and the living’s easy. Or is it? Summer is synonymous with vacations, but not everyone is able to...
Brittany Dietz
Chinese New Year: Vacation destinations for each Zodiac sign

Chinese New Year: Vacation destinations for each Zodiac sign

We've consulted the Shēngxiào (Chinese Zodiac) and are suggesting some holiday destinations based on the characteristics of your sign. Read our top 12 to find out where you should vacation this Chinese New Year.
Nicole Rashotte
Travel tips See all
Cheapflights COVID-19 Tips

7 tips to prepare yourself for a future trip

As we face the realities of COVID-19, it’s easy to feel a little lost. And the idea of travel may...
Cheapflights Media
12 things I wish I’d known before visiting Iceland

12 things I wish I’d known before visiting Iceland

There’s no denying Iceland is hot right now. From natural wonders to art and culture to a laid-back city center full...
Amanda Festa