What Is the Best Day to Book Flights for Thanksgiving and Christmas?

When you’re planning for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year travel, buying your airline tickets while you’re in “summer fun” mode might seem a bit (or even a lot) early. And the struggle to choose the “best day” to book is real.

holiday flights 2018

Holiday airfare starts out already priced at a premium. This is why a lot of people feel extreme sticker shock for the holidays. These flights are often priced 20 or 30% less at other times of the year. On top of that, as the dates creep closer, the fares start an inevitable march higher as well. If you’re planning holiday travel, we urge you to watch the airfare trends for your itinerary closely and plan to purchase your airline tickets sooner rather than later. Buying early can save you a lot of money.

Every year we crunch the data by tracking 11,000 popular holiday itineraries to come up with our Holiday Flight Report, that helps consumers identify the best time to purchase airline tickets for the busy Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years holiday season.

It’s really pretty straightforward. If you wait too long, you will pay more for your tickets. And the closer you come to the holidays before making that purchase, the more it will cost you on average. We reviewed the data for 2017, and this is what we found. For Thanksgiving, the best prices appear in August and September (on average). You’ll pay about $37 more per ticket if you wait to buy until October and almost $107 more if you wait until November.

Christmas and New Years prices are also at their best in September.  If you buy in October, you’ll only pay about $5 more, in November $54 more and in December, a costly $118 more per ticket.

The other unsavory byproduct of waiting to buy is that you’re going to be facing much less choice in the available flights. As you get closer to preferred travel dates, the most attractive itineraries with good connection times start to fill up which leaves fewer options for those of us who waited to buy. It can mean you have to take a flight with a crummy layover for a lot more money than if you’d pulled the trigger a few months earlier. The “great flights” might still be available, but it’s quite possible that they’re now too expensive for you to book. The low priced seats always sell out first, and on busy holiday flights what may be left may be premium seating. And hoping for a last minute sale is not a great strategy during the holidays, when it seems somebody somewhere is going to be willing to pay exorbitant pricing.

You can use our intuitive search tool that helps you sort through all of the pricing options in an easy, side-by-side comparison. That way, you can look at the available flights and see what amenities and fees are included with each before you book.

If you feel like the fares are already too high for your planned travel dates, keep in mind the day you travel can also save on your bottom line. If you know you’re going to need to fly the day before Thanksgiving (typically, the most expensive day that week), you should buy extra early. If, on the other hand you need to wait and are not quite ready to buy, you can often find better deals if you fly ON the holiday itself. The same goes for Christmas. If you wait until late in the year to book, Christmas day flights are usually available and often less expensive than other days.

One other tip – if you’re struggling to justify the expense, you can also make flight costs a little easier to absorb when you use our Monthly Payments option. Monthly payments allow you to spread the costs over a 3- 6- or 12-month period. And during the holidays, that can be a very stress-relieving way to go.

So that’s it. Purchase your holiday flights now to save yourself more money later. And don’t forget to research the day you plan to fly. Keep an eye out for our next post – the best days and itineraries to fly for Thanksgiving savings!

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2 Comments

  1. I booked a flight last minute a couple years ago with Alaska Air. It was on Thanksgiving Day early morning. On my connecting flight (a small partner airline) there so few flyers that the staff moved everybody up to first class and premium class for no extra charge. It was like getting an early Christmas present! You could have lit up a room with all the bright smiles we had on as we deplaned and entered the terminal. Shhhhhhhhh! Don’t tell anybody!

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