buy your summer airline tickets eight weeks before and on tuesday at 3:00pm est

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Intrepid travelers will tell you that the good old days of finding a $500 return airfare across the Atlantic have gone the way of the dinosaur. In fact, good luck finding an $800 or even $900 return trip these days.

According to kayak.com, airfares to Europe from North America for the summer of 2012 have thus far increased as much as twofold – yes twofold. Tickets from the U.S. to London have increased 14%, tickets to Paris have increased 22%, and tickets to Munich and Stockholm are both up more than 20% versus 2011.

Shockingly, ticket prices on American Airlines and Virgin Atlantic for a New York to London return this summer will cost you up to $1,800 for some dates in June and July, some of them as a result of the 2012 Olympics. Most other US to Europe city combinations are averaging between $1400 and $1800 return trip.

According to Travelocity, there is in fact a little good news, as there are many domestic deals in the U.S. to be had. For example, ticket prices between Los Angeles and Philadelphia are down about 20%, as Virgin America has now added that route, and Chicago to Boston fares have dropped 29%. However, while prices for domestic flights within the U.S. are running only 3% higher than last year, the dirty combination of higher fuel costs and lower passenger capacity have made trips over any ocean inaccessible to many.

One way to maximize your savings is to purchase your tickets in what has been determined to be the maximum window of low fare opportunity. According to a study in the Economic Journal, economists have calculated that purchasing tickets eight weeks before your flight will generally yield the best results. Further, having studied three years of data, farecompare.com found that the best moment to buy tickets during the week was 3:00pm EST on a Tuesday.

So count back eight weeks from your intended departure date and set your alarms and alerts for Tuesday at 3:00pm EST [that’s 8:00pm GMT], and search away!

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