Why I book flights way in advance when I'm flying with my family

In yesterday’s tip, we shared a new take on the best times to book domestic flights. Based on past booking patterns, Qtrip defined six “Airfare Booking Zones” and the average prices you can expect in each. (You can read about all six in the post here.) Whenever possible, I personally prefer to book flights way in advance, in the “First Dibs” zone defined as 315 to 202 days (or 10 to 6.5 months) in advance of a trip. Why? Because booking before everyone else lets me get the seats I want, which is important when I’m traveling with my family.

As an American Airlines (AA) Executive Platinum member, I get to select premium seats for free, including Premium Economy seats on AA’s plush 787 and 777 aircrafts on domestic flights. Those seats are better than most of AA’s domestic first class seats. Even when I’m not flying AA or on a 787 or 777, if I’m buying a ticket that includes seat selection (which I always am), booking before everyone else gives me an advantage.

Of course, I use Expert Flyer to set seat alerts, but it’s still difficult to secure a whole row of seats last minute. So when I travel with my kids over the holidays, I try to book flights way in advance so that I maximize my chances of getting bulkhead seats or Premium Economy on AA’s wide-bodies. I also set up fare alerts way in advance so that when the price dips, I can jump on it. (I’ve already purchased a flight around Christmas 2020: $135 to fly LAX to Toronto.)

So if you want specific seats on a plane, like exit row or bulkhead seats, book early. Don’t wait until the last minute and scramble to get an okay seat, especially if it’s a long flight or you’re traveling with your family or other people you want to sit with. It’s common sense, but many people prioritize price over everything and forget.

For help with seats

If you’re not sure what the seating configuration will be on your flight, you can usually find the scheduled aircraft and seat info on SeatGuru or this site.


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