Book Thanksgiving and Holiday Flights Now Before Air Fares Soar

NSomething puts a damper on the holidays, like overpaying for flights. However, according to travel booking app Hopper, holiday airfares will be the most expensive in five years due to a combination of factors including fuel prices, tighter flight schedules and traditional holiday travel demand.

The best strategy, according to Hopper’s Crunchers? Book now — and no later than the week of October 10, for both Thanksgiving and holiday flights.

“Thanksgiving fares peaked at over $400 in August, but have fallen about 9% in September as they do every year and will remain at current levels through mid-to-late October,” according to Hayley Berg, chief Hopper economist.

“If you see a good deal that you’re comfortable paying, we recommend booking as soon as possible, as prices are expected to increase and flights will sell out quickly with limited airline capacity compared to 2019,” Hopper analysts advise.

First, be realistic.

You can expect to pay more for this year’s flights. For Thanksgiving, domestic airfare will cost an average of $350 round trip, up 22% from 2019 and 43% higher than last year. International airfares are also up 25% compared to the pre-pandemic period and 41% compared to last year, averaging $795 round trip.

For Christmas, flights will be even more expensive. Hopper predicts that domestic round-trip flights will cost $463, up 31% compared to 2019. International fares will cost an average of $1,300 for a round-trip flight.

Consider using more paid time off.

Do you have a vacation day or two? Along with booking early, travelers can save up to $300 on peak airfare by extending their trips so they don’t fly on the busiest travel days. For Thanksgiving, this might mean flying out the Monday before Thanksgiving and returning after the holiday weekend.

The most expensive days to return home will be the Saturday and Sunday right after the holidays. “Returning the week after Thanksgiving on the Tuesday or Wednesday (November 29 and 30) can save up to $270 per ticket,” according to Hopper. “If you choose a shorter route, flying on Black Friday can save you $175 off peak prices.”

Christmas falls on a Sunday this year. So, similarly, weekday flights – departing on the Monday or Tuesday before the Christmas weekend and returning Monday to Wednesday the week after the holiday – will give you the most bang for your buck.

This finding is supported by Expedia’s flight data, which shows that travelers can save an average of 15% on airfare simply by departing in the first half of the week instead of the Thursday or Friday before Christmas. And for some destinations, like Cancun, savings can be as high as 35%.

Book hotels a few weeks before your trip.

Heading to a big city? Booking your hotel just a few weeks in advance can save 25%. “Usually hotels drop rates in the month before the check-in date, so plan to book your Thanksgiving hotel stay by the first week of November and your Christmas stay by the first week of December” , Hopper analysts say. On the other hand, if you plan to visit a vacation hotspot, you’ll want to book hotels at least three weeks in advance.

Debating whether to travel for Thanksgiving or Christmas? Go with the ex. Expedia’s demand data shows that hotel prices are generally lower during the Thanksgiving holiday compared to the week of Christmas. For popular resort destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean, those savings can be $70 or more per night — or nearly $500 for a weeklong getaway.

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