What is the ‘Goldilocks’ window for cheap flights out of DC?

With the cost of a roundtrip plane ticket down from last summer, booking flights for a vacation is taking less of a toll on pockets than some may have expected.

“It’s about 20% cheaper than it was in July of 2022,” said Katy Nastro, a travel expert with Going.com.

Nastro called this price drop “pretty significant,” noting that the last time airfare was this low — outside of the pandemic — was December 2006.

How you can save money when booking

That said, she advises making travel plans well in advance to get the best deals.

“A lot of people are probably saying, ‘Oh my gosh, no it’s not, I’m looking at a flight right now for the end of August,'” Nastro said. “Well, yeah, you know, looking last-minute like that, you’re definitely gonna get higher prices than you typically would have if you looked a little bit earlier.”

Looking ahead even just under a month to Labor Day could make a difference, Nastro said.

“Some great deals that we’ve found for dates throughout September and October: D.C. to London, $473 round-trip. Costa Rica, $382.”

But you don’t have to travel far for the deals, she said.

“You can head over to San Diego for $258,” she said. “All round-trip, all on full-service airlines and from various airports around the D.C. area.”

According to Nastro, snagging a great deal on plane tickets is all about planning ahead. D.C.-area travelers have access to multiple major airports, which is an advantage.

“There’s a lot of routes and a lot of competition,” Nastro said. “That’s good for travelers.”

Nastro wants D.C.-area travelers to walk away with one major tip — something she calls “the Goldilocks window.”

“These are just time periods that you should be looking to book within to just give yourself the best odds at finding a really great deal,” Nastro said.

If you’re looking to travel domestically during an off-peak season outside of the summer or winter holidays — for example, September or October — you should be searching for tickets between one and three months out.

For international trips during this time frame, you should start hunting for tickets two to eight months before you’d like to go.

At peak season, you’ll want to look three to seven months in advance for domestic travel, and four to 10 months in advance to fly internationally.

“You don’t have to only look within those windows, you know — don’t stop searching,” Nastro said. “But these windows are really the best odds at just having a flight deal pop up.”

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Kate Corliss

Kate Corliss is a Digital Writer/Editor for WTOP.com. She is a senior studying journalism at American University and serves as the Campus Life Editor for the student newspaper, The Eagle. Before joining WTOP, she covered local Connecticut news at the Rivereast News Bulletin and reported on Congress

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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