— -- Before you grab your phone and type into the calendar, "Buy plane tickets," hear me out.
Buy those tickets a day earlier than planned.
Look, I've got to-do lists a mile long in various devices. If you're like me, you pat yourself on the back for checking off anything. Those who check off items one-by-one are excused while the rest of us chat about the high price of procrastination.
Avoid the Last-Minute Zone
For years I've been telling people, "Shop one day earlier than you were going to." You can take that literally but the real takeaway is, don't wait until the last minute. Most of us do and it's why we pay too much (and more on that in a sec).When to shop: For domestic tickets, you've got a nice window that opens around three months before departure day and starts to close at 30 days before of take-off. For international tickets, start five months ahead, and finish up about a month and a half before you leave.
So when do most of us shop tickets? You guessed it: within 30 days of our trip. If I could break shoppers of one single habit it would be that one. You can actually get penalized twice for shopping too late.
Prices generally rise at the 30 day mark, up to two weeks before departure. After two weeks, watch out! That's when most prices really soar. An exception is with the so-called discount carriers such as JetBlue or Frontier that usually delay the big fare hike until about seven days before departure. But either way, shopping in the last-minute zone is for the birds. These round-trip fares were found last week for Los Angeles-New York:
• Booked one month in advance: Southwest $375, United $377.
• Booked one week in advance: Southwest: $441, United $555.
• Booked one day in advance: Southwest $555, United $1,064.
Can you tell which airline really caters to the business crowd? This is why airlines are so devoted to their last-minute ticket-buying guys and gals. But even if you're shopping for a getaway or a two week vacation, it's still obvious: The longer you wait, the more you pay. No matter what airline you fly.
Holidays are Even Worse
And wait 'til you see Thanksgiving fares. Indeed, if a Turkey Day trip is in your future, do not wait, shop right now. The procrastination premium is that horrendous. Here's an average of the overage you could encounter:
• $3 per day: Add this to the cost of a ticket, each day you delay, now through September.
• $5 per day: Add this to the cost of a ticket, each day you delay, starting in October.
Holidays are periods when you must be content with finding a better bad deal, but during most of the year you can actually find a bargain. But not if you wait! If you were planning to shop for tickets this Wednesday, do yourself a favor. Shop on Tuesday.
(Editor's Note: Rick Seaney is the CEO of Farecompare.com. His opinions do not reflect those of ABC News.)