Traveling for the holidays? See how you can avoid high prices and crowded flights

Thanksgiving and Christmas airfares are shaping up to be some of the most expensive of the year. Domestic Thanksgiving airfare now averages $281 round trip – up 25% from last year, according to Hopper. Christmas will be even more expensive, with prices averaging $435 round trip, 55% more than the cost of tickets during the 2021 holiday.

And prices are increasing at a rate of about 4% per week — so for every week you wait to book a flight, expect the fare to increase.

The best time to book vacation flights was two months — or four months — before the trip. However, there are still plenty of great vacation deals throughout the US and the Caribbean — especially if you’re looking to get away rather than see the family.

Want to fly to Saint Thomas? Flights to the US Virgin Islands are just $224 (or you can redeem 13,000 Delta miles) for flights from South Florida and Los Angeles. Or, you can get to St. Thomas from New York to Delta for $224 or 13,000 miles or from Los Angeles to St. Thomas for $337. Or, flying from Miami to St. Croix will cost $310 on American Airlines.

But the biggest holiday discounts? Cruise lines. About 1,500 separate cruise itineraries — including Thanksgiving and Christmas itineraries — cost an average of less than $100 a night. And on some cruise lines — like Carnival — a four-night cruise right after Thanksgiving averaged just $26 per night, and another three-night cruise for $33 a night.

A Bahamas Carnival cruise from Port Canaveral in Florida from November 28 to December 2 costs an average of $104 per person for a double room, or $26 per day. After taxes, fees and port charges, the cruise is approximately $507.

And a Norwegian getaway — a 10-day cruise over the Thanksgiving holiday to Jamaica, Aruba, Curacao and the Dominican Republic, with an open bar — costs $63 a night.

Some other incredible cruise deals for November include five nights on Holland America out of Vancouver for an average base of $36 per day and six nights in November from Barcelona on MSC Cruises for around $50 per day. Look for quick flash sales from cruise lines with similar big discounts.

Europe – where the US dollar is almost on par with the British pound and the euro – is also a place to look for holiday deals, especially if you’re willing to play around with travel dates. If you leave Newark for Barcelona before Thanksgiving and return right after, you’ll pay just $535 on United. Alternatively, fly SAS from the US to Europe in November and December in reduced premium economy to cities like Copenhagen, Orlo, Paris, Zurich, Amsterdam or Brussels, starting at $653.

And if you can wait until January, fares are plummeting: Head from New York to Lisbon for a week or two for just $390 on United.

If you don’t want to throw away the turkey entirely, consider going a week after Thanksgiving and carving the turkey afterward. In the airline industry, this is known as the dead week as people recover from family vacations – with domestic round-trip fares averaging around $78.

The other way to approach holiday travel is to avoid getting caught up in the worst Wednesday of the year: the day before Thanksgiving, whose annual travel chaos inspired the 1987 classic “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” To get the best fares, leave the Thursday before Thanksgiving and return the Friday right after the holiday. While the rest of your relatives are stuck in Black Friday traffic at the mall, you’ve already headed home and have the entire weekend ahead of you, with lower fares in the process.

And be on the lookout for a slew of airfare deals from airlines like Jet Blue and Southwest, with fares starting at $29. While flash sales are here today and usually end in 36 hours, in many cases you can book until the end of February 2023. Southwest’s winter sale, for example, ended on October 6 — but will likely reappear as another sale on early next week.

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