Still haven’t booked for the holidays? Here’s where you might find some deals

This time of year, our customer support team gets a lot of questions that sound something like this:

“I’m trying to find a flight for Christmas but WOW! Why are fares so high? Is something wrong with your site?”

Unfortunately, the answer is no. The fares you are seeing are not misprints. By now, most flights around the holidays are really, really full. And since the more full a flight is, the more the airlines charge, a lot of you are finding some very unpleasant surprises.

best days to fly

This late in the game, there is no silver bullet to guarantee yourself a great deal on a Christmas flight. But there is one piece of advice we can give which, although we repeat it constantly, is more important than ever right now: Be flexible. This time of year, prices can vary substantially from one day to the next. If you adjust your travel dates slightly, you might be able to dramatically reduce your airfare.

The chart below shows the average lowest fare options for domestic searches around Christmas and New Years, broken down by departure date. Not surprisingly, Christmas Eve, New Years Eve, and Christmas Day are the least expensive days to depart. But even if you don’t want to fly on one of those holiday days, there is some potentially useful information here.

The Saturday before Christmas is the most expensive day to fly. By moving your trip forward one day to depart on Sunday, you can save $104 on average! Or $136 if you move your trip forward by 2 days to depart on Monday.

Average Fares by Departure Date
Thu Dec. 19 $579
Fri Dec. 20 $668
Sat Dec. 21 $703
Sun Dec. 22 $599
Mon Dec. 23 $567
Tue Dec. 24 $523
Wed Dec. 25 $520
Thu Dec. 26 $589
Fri Dec. 27 $588
Sat Dec. 28 $580
Sun Dec. 29 $568
Mon Dec. 30 $533
Tue Dec. 31 $494

A similar dynamic applies to return fares, although it’s not quite as extreme. The Saturday after Christmas and the Saturday after New Years are the most expensive days. If you can take an especially long trip and come back on the Monday or Tuesday after New Years’, you should do well. The Thursday and Friday after New Years are better than the Saturday and Sunday, although for Christmas Week it doesn’t make that much of a difference — they’re all pretty high.

Average Fares by Return Date
Thu Dec. 26 $601
Fri Dec. 27 $604
Sat Dec. 28 $614
Sun Dec. 29 $605
Mon Dec. 30 $583
Tue Dec. 31 $547
Wed Jan. 1 $535
Thu Jan. 2 $562
Fri Jan. 3 $569
Sat Jan. 4 $612
Sun Jan. 5 $587
Mon Jan. 6 $511
Tue Jan. 7 $472

These numbers are just averages, across 11,000 domestic markets. For different cities, the fare differences and the best days to fly will vary. The most important point is, if you still need a flight for the holidays, check a lot of different date combinations; separately check each set of trip dates you’d be willing to fly.  We promise that it happens quite a lot, where one set of dates is much less expensive than another.

Search Cheap Flights for the Holidays

11 Comments

  1. Hey guys,

    This question is actually about NEXT Christmas.

    There are 10 of us (8 from the same airport) going to Roatan over Christmas 2014. Should we book flights as soon as possible (11 months out) or have you found it is better to wait, and if so, how long? We can’t be real flexible on our dates or flight times, but we do plan to fly back on New Year’s Eve which saved us a fair bit on our trip to Belize last year.

    Thanks!

    • Hi Steve,

      Great question! Booking your travel early for the Christmas holiday is always a wise decision. While I don’t think you’ll need to purchase right away 11 months out, you should certainly monitor the fares and get a good sense of the costs for your dates. Then you’ll want to periodically check your dates each week to get a sense if the prices are increasing, decreasing, or staying the same. Ultimately, I’d suggest to make sure you’ve purchased your flights by July 2014 to be safe. Please let us know if you need any help with finding flights or if you need any assistance with your travels.

  2. When is the best time to purchase tickets for spring break? Leaving around March 29? Thanks

    • Hi Rose,

      For Spring Break flights, it would be wise to begin checking the fares now and be prepared to buy sooner than later since after the New Year, people will be booking more and more for Spring and Summer trips. Please let us know if you need any help with finding flights.

  3. Are there any good rules of thumb for traveling internationally over holiday periods like Thanksgiving or Christmas? Do fares change as drastically as they do domestically, and do the same sort of high/low days apply?

    • Hi Alex,

      Yes, fares over the holiday season will be higher than normal for most places (Internationally and Domestically) due to the holidays. When traveling internationally, it can really depend on the destination and how popular that destination is during the holiday season. If you have any routes you’d like us to check fares for, just let us know. We’re here to help you with your travel in any way we can.

  4. I tried to look for fares from NY, NY to Miami, Fl and it kept asking questions as to dates and departure city even though I had submitted them already. the tentative dates are 1/12-1/23.

    • Hi H. Hersh,

      For your flights from NYC, to MIA for your dates, fares are starting at around $228 per person, not including any baggage fees that may apply. It looks like Spirit Airlines is coming up the cheapest option, but they do charge fees for bags, etc… Since you’re traveling so soon, you’ll definitely want to purchase as soon as possible, since fares will only continue to rise. To book, you can follow this link: http://bit.ly/1d4431I Please let us know if you need any assistance finding flights or if you have any questions.

  5. What suggestions do you have re: flying to west coast of Fla (Ft. Meyers). from syracuse NY?.
    How early should we be booking for mid-March trip? We are adaptable for day and time. OR are there better deals to bigger cities?
    Any tips on car rentals? thanks

    • Hi Dee,

      If you have specific dates set in March, then booking about 10 weeks prior or more would be wise since you’re flying from/to smaller cities with less flight options. Otherwise, if you’re flexible with your dates, then flying mid week is cheapest. If you can depart from a larger city then there are some savings to be found, but it all depends on your preferences. For example, NYC is almost $100 cheaper than Syracuse. However, the costs to get from Syracuse to NYC might not make it worth it for you. Rental cars are normally placed on a courtesy hold using a credit card, from which you’ll be charged upon pick up of the rental. Reserving your car ahead a time is a safe bet. Sometimes, you can prepay a rental car as well if booking directly on the suppliers website. It just depends. To view flights schedules and book, you can use this link: http://bit.ly/1B2k8RL Keep in mind, when you book on CheapAir.com, if the price for the same itinerary goes down any time before your trip, we’ll pay you back the difference in the form of a travel voucher for up to $100 per ticket! Please let us know if you need any help with finding flights.

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