In general, is there a best time to book international airfare?
Unfortunately, there isn't a definitive best time to book, a time that will always guarantee you both the best prices and availability. That said, there are rules of thumb you can follow that will help you identify when to start searching for fares, which with any luck will lead you to the best available prices.
Hotwire's travel expert, Clem Bason, says international fares are determined more by season than they are by destination, so when you're traveling should be a major consideration, right along with the destination you're visiting. "If the month you want to travel is [in] high demand, then book as far out as possible," says Bason. He adds, "The farther away and more exotic the destination, [the more] people book in advance just because of the sheer logistics and cost involved in traveling."
A majority of SmarterTravel.com's readers who write to me ask for advice on when to book Europe flights. "Everyone knows that Europe in the summertime will be in high demand. Whether or not the dollar is strong, planes will fill up," says Bason. "It is safer booking as far in advance as you can ... [Airfare] is much more likely to increase."
Winter in Europe is a different story. Since winter is seasonally a time of low demand, Bason notes, "Several months before, if you see high fares, it's a good chance a lower fare will be available if you wait."
(Editor's Note: SmarterTravel.com is a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network, an operating company of Expedia, Inc. Expedia, Inc. also owns Hotwire.com.)