The right time to purchase airline tickets for summer travel depends on your specific needs when planning a trip. While some travelers prefer to purchase tickets as soon as they have a destination in mind, others choose to wait until the last minute, hoping for a great deal. As Michelle Higgins reports in The New York Times, buying airline tickets is "always something of a gamble -- prices go up and down," and trying to determine how far in advance to buy your ticket is difficult, but arming yourself with the best information available helps in your decision-making process.

Book Early

Travelers hoping to secure a ticket on their preferred airline for their desired route, date and time should purchase tickets as soon as possible to ensure their specific requirements are met. After the early tickets have been booked, many airlines and travel reservation companies offer fare refunds to travelers who find a cheaper fare for a flight they have already booked, notes an article in the New York Times. However, a re-booking fee is often charged when changing the tickets to the new, lower fare.

Buy at the Last Minute

Travelers who wait until the last minute often have trouble obtaining a ticket for the exact date and time they prefer; however, flexible travelers are often able to score discounted tickets by purchasing as soon as 14 days in advance of a flight. Airlines periodically issue last-minute specials for round-trip tickets on off peak days and package deals, including hotel rooms, that are often cheaper than an airline ticket purchased well in advance. Travelers choosing to wait until the last minute should purchase tickets at least two weeks before the flight, the time when ticket prices soar, notes Rick Seaney at Fare Compare.

Wait for the Best Deals

The best deals on summer airline tickets are historically offered approximately 3 1/2 months before a departure date, as airlines attempt to determine their demand for summer travel, reports Rick Seaney at Fare Compare. Travelers looking to purchase airfare at the time will often find even cheaper rates on Tuesdays after 3 p.m., Eastern Time, after most airlines have introduced their sales for the week. As these sales don't last long, travelers should complete their purchase by Thursday, before the sale ends, to ensure the best rates.

Tips for International Trips

Travelers planning an international trip for their summer travel must be prepared to look for the best deals between four and five months prior to travel. For travel to Europe, the best deals are typically found between four and six months in advance, with the best deals often offered early in that window, suggests the Rick Steves travel website. In most cases, travelers choosing to book their flight early or wait until the last minute face the same benefits and downfalls as those booking a domestic flight.