What are the cheapest days to fly for the holidays?

Checking flights and fares for the holidays can sometimes be eye-opening in a not-so-good way. Simply put, the fares are almost always higher than what you’re used to paying if you fly to the same city any other time of the year. Part of this is because most airlines jack up fares on the peak holiday travel days, adding surcharges of about $30 each way. But it’s also because the price of a ticket on any flight depends partly on how heavily booked that flight is — and holidays flights are always heavily booked.

But all is not lost. There are some strategies you can employ to at least lessen the pain and find the cheapest possible flight for the holidays.

Most importantly, if at all possible, be flexible on your travel dates. Very often there is an enormous difference (sometimes several hundred dollars!) between flights on one day versus the next. We suggest you check several combinations of dates to see which ones is least expensive for your city, but as a starting point you can check out the calendar below. There are exceptions, of course, but the dates in green are more often than not the cheapest days to fly and the dates in red you should avoid if at all possible.

2011 Holidays - Cheapest Days to Fly

Besides being flexible on your dates, it is also critically important that you book early.  During most of the year, we advise you to not book too early or too late. We’ve said the sweet spot is normally about 4-6 weeks in advance for domestic travel.

Well, throw that out the window for the holidays.

Because airlines automatically adjust fares upward on flights as they get booked up, and because holiday flights always get booked up, for travel around Thanksgiving and Christmas it is more important than ever to book as far in advance as you can. Do you risk fares dropping at the last minute? That is a pretty small risk given historical holiday pricing patterns, but thanks to our new Price Drop Payback Program if you book with us you have some degree of protection even if fares do end up dropping.

Another potentially money-savings strategy is to try an alternate airport at either end of your trip (or both).  If there are other airports within driving distance of your first choice airport, at least check to see how the fare may differ. Sometimes you will find that fares are dramatically lower and it may be worth a 60 or 90 minute drive to save a bunch of money on your air fare.

We know that searching for holiday airfares is never easy and rarely fun. If things get too frustrating and you feel like pulling your hair out, give us a call at 1-800-CHEAP-AIR. We have expert travel counselors standing by who may be able to suggest an alternative or dig up an option that you won’t find on-line.


12 Comments

  1. I have already booked holiday travel and the 30th was much cheaper than traveling on the 31st. I don’t know that I agree with your red/green analysis of those days at the end of December.

    • Fair point. Admittedly, these are not hard and fast rules as we have tried to generalize the entire domestic market into one calendar. There will be some exceptions, and certain routes will buck the trend. Use the calendar as a guide and as a starting point and, if you’re flexible enough to travel on the days we identify as the cheapest, make sure you at least check those dates. But you are correct that there will be certain cases where there is actually a cheaper fare on another date.

  2. Thank you Cheap Air for finding a way to save your customers more money. I love the Price Drop Payback Program. It makes me want to go to Cheap Air before I try anyone else. Also, thank you for giving suggestions on best days to fly. With every penny being accounted for to make it through the month, and with a son in college… every suggestion helps.

  3. Great article! I wonder why other sites haven’t shared this valuable information with us? I’ll come back to Cheap Air every time I fly or need a hotel or rental car. Thank you.

  4. We depend on cheap air because our daughter is in the miltary and we have to travel alots. because if we get a call one of us have to go.

  5. Thanks for the informative article.

  6. Great to know. It’s a good place to start. I appreciate the tip!

  7. I’m wanting to fly from CAE Columbia SC to Durango CO..
    When will the plane fares & hotel fees cost less.
    Between Nov 13 thru Jan 2012.
    Sincerely,
    carlene Fava

  8. Do you charge a fee? I could not find it anywhere in your information. Thanks.

    • Jean, we do charge a fee in most cases (usually $9.95) but it is already included in the prices that you see. Unlike many of our competitors, we aim to be very up front about it instead of sneaking it in at the last minute. You will never see a price quote anywhere on CheapAir.com that doesn’t have our fee already baked in. And because we find so many low fare options that other sites don’t, I think you will find our out-the-door fares to be quite competitive. Plus, our tickets come with our Price Drop Payback protection which you won’t get buying anywhere else — this will give you a measure of protection in case the fare drops after your purchase.

  9. I have been looking for a cheap flight for the pass three weeks cannot find something in my range the airlines are making it very difficult for the customer. They should try to make it a little easier for the customers.

  10. Gone are the days when travellers use to pay under 300 hundred dollars to go to Florida. However, paying over 600 dollars to fly to Florida for Christmas is ridiculous.

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