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When To Fly And When To Buy Your Flight

01/19/2017 05:18 EST | Updated 01/19/2017 05:24 EST
encrier via Getty Images
Young woman in international airport looking at the flight information board, checking her flight

Travel is a lot like real estate: Timing and location are the keys to get maximum value. To help you get a better handle on vacation planning, the data experts at Cheapflights.ca crunched data from 4.5 million flight searches to 20 of the most popular destinations to find out when airfares from Canada are at their lowest and their highest -- and when the best prices tend to be available for booking.

All our number crunching about the best time to buy flights reveals some key findings:

  • Some destinations (we're looking at you, Cancun and Costa Rica) are better suited to the last-minute travel planner than others (say Vancouver and Los Angeles, for example).
  • The holiday season is really the most expensive time to fly. The last couple weeks of the year topped the list for priciest flights to all but one destination. It's best to make your Christmas or New Year's plans over the summer.
  • It's not too late to plan a bit of pre-Valentine's Day romance in Paris, but you better get cracking.
  • If you want to take full advantage of January travel deals (and there are many), make peace with it being next year.
  • Now is the time to focus on spring and summer travel plans.

Below you'll find guidance on "when to fly" and "when to buy" for five of the most popular destinations for Canadians.

Toronto, Ontario

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Image: Robert, Hello Toronto via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

On average: Booking 138 days before your flight to Toronto will yield the most affordable ticket prices. That means planning to book a little less than 20 weeks, or roughly five months, before your flight.

Cheapest flights: For the cheapest travel to Toronto, plan ahead for early 2018.

When to fly: The last week of February

When to buy: Last week of September

Peak season: The week leading up to Christmas is the most expensive time to fly to Toronto. Aim to buy: Last week of June.

For summer travel, the priciest time is the week of Canada Day. Aim to buy: Third week of January.

Last-minute deals: Late to the summer planning table? Keep an eye out for late summer deals.

When to fly: The last two weeks of August

When to buy: Three to four weeks earlier

Manila, Philippines

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Image: Benson Kua, Storm Over Makati via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

On average: The best prices can be found throughout the year 124 days before flying, so aim to book less than 18 weeks, or around four and a half months, before your intended departure date.

Cheapest flights: End of summer is prime deal time for travel to the Philippines.

When to fly: The first two weeks of September

When to buy: The fourth week of May

Peak season: The two weeks leading up to Christmas are the most expensive time to fly to Manila. Aim to buy: The last two weeks of June.

Last-minute deals: There are a few chances to get the best fares five or six weeks in advance. The most affordable of those?

When to fly: The third week in October

When to buy: The first week in September

London, England

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Image: Hernán Piñera, Westminster via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

On average: The most affordable deals can be found 118 days before a given travel date so plan to book less than 17 weeks, or a little more than four months, ahead of the date you plan to fly.

Cheapest flights: For the best flight deals to London, get an early jump on the summer travel season.

When to fly: The second week of May

When to buy: Mid-April

Peak season: The festive season is the most expensive time to fly to London, especially the week before Christmas. Aim to buy: Last week of August.

For summer travel, the priciest time is the last week of June and the first week of July. Aim to buy: Mid-January.

Last-minute deals: The late summer shoulder season also offers good last-minute bargains.

When to fly: The first two weeks of September

When to buy: Mid-to-late August

Vancouver, British Columbia

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Image: Colin Knowles, Burrard Bridge from Granville Island via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

On average: Plan to book your flights 143 days before your intended departure date, which is about 20 weeks, or five months, earlier.

Cheapest flights: Between the holiday season and mid-winter break, you can find some of the best airfares to Vancouver, though it takes some advanced planning.

When to fly: Between mid-January and early February

When to buy: Mid-August

Peak season: The last two weeks of the year are the most expensive time to travel to Vancouver. Aim to buy: The first week of July.

For summer travel, airfares are at their highest from mid-July through mid-August. Aim to buy: Mid-to-late February. (Good news for procrastinators: flights for the third week in July look to break with this pattern. You may find betters deals for the week by shopping in mid-April.)

Last-minute deals: There is a lull before the summer season kicks off, so look for a bargain when the calendar flips to spring.

When to fly: The second week of June

When to buy: The third week of March

Added tip: Get booking now for spring skiing. Early January is the prime deal time for flights in the first week of April.

New York, New York, United States

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Image: Jerry Ferguson, New York Sunset - HDR via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

On average: Booking your travel 141 days before your departure date will return the most affordable options, so plan to book around 20 weeks, or five months, before takeoff.

Cheapest flights: Advanced planners can score some extremely good flight prices to New York City. Airfares for much of January and February top the list for the most affordable of the year. Plan ahead for the very best deals.

When to fly: The second week of January

When to buy: The first week of August

Peak season: The two weeks leading up to New Year's Eve are the priciest time to fly to New York. Aim to buy: Mid-August

Last-minute deals: You don't have to plan too far in advance to stretch your summer with a late-season trip to New York.

When to fly: The second and third week of September

When to buy: The first half of June

Added tip: To get the best deals on a holiday shopping trip to New York, really plan ahead. The best prices for a mid-December flight are available in mid-June.

Go here to read details on how to time your travel and your bookings to 15 more popular destinations for Canadians including: Paris, France; Las Vegas, Nevada; Orlando, Florida; Bangkok, Thailand; Calgary, Alberta; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Los Angeles, California; Cancun, Mexico; Montreal, Quebec; Beijing, China; Miami, Florida; San Francisco, California; Edmonton, Alberta; San Jose, Costa Rica; and Varadero, Cuba.

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