Book early for the best deals, say travel agents; January and February are the busiest months for tour operators as families book for the summer. But research has found that while you should book ahead for short journeys on such airlines as Ryanair or easyJet, it’s better to wait until much later for the best deals on long-haul flights.

The best time to book a short-haul flight is at least 70 days (2.5 months) in advance of flying, according to online booking agent Tripsta. But if it’s a long-haul destination that you’re after – such as New York, Bangkok or Sydney – then it is better to hold your nerve and wait until closer to your departure date.

The researchers found that for long-haul travel you should book no more than 47 days in advance, “and if you are brave enough, try leaving it even later”.

For example, Guardian Money tested flights to New York departing next Saturday, 7 January, returning two weeks later on Saturday 21 January. The cheapest deal for a direct flight was £410 on Virgin Atlantic. Booking far in advance, for an equally quiet period of travel in late November 2017, the cheapest price for a direct flight […]