Nothing puts a damper on the holidays like overpaying for flights. But according to travel booking app Hopper, holiday airfare prices will be the most expensive in five years due to a combination of factors, including jet fuel prices, thinner flight schedules and traditional holiday travel demand.
The best strategy, according to Hopper’s data crunchers? Book right now — and no later than the week of October 10 for both Thanksgiving and holiday flights.
“Fares for Thanksgiving peaked at over $400 in August, but have fallen around 9% into September as they do each year and will remain at the current level until mid to late October,” according to Hayley Berg, Hopper’s chief economist.
“If you see a good deal you’re comfortable paying, we recommend booking ASAP as prices are expected to rise and flights will be selling out quickly with limited airline capacity compared to 2019,” advise Hopper analysts.
First, be realistic.
You can expect to pay more for this year’s flights. For Thanksgiving, domestic airfare will cost $350 on average round-trip, up 22% compared to 2019 and 43% higher than last year. International airfares are also up 25% compared to pre-pandemic times and 41% compared to last year, averaging $795 for a round-trip.
For Christmas, flights will be even pricier. Hopper predicts domestic roundtrip flights will cost $463, up 31% compared to 2019. International airfares will run $1,300 on average for a roundtrip flight.
Consider using up more paid time off.
Do you have a vacation day or two to spare? Along with booking early, travelers can save as much as $300 off peak airfare by stretching their trips so they are not flying on the highest-volume travel days. For Thanksgiving, that might mean flying out on the Monday before Thanksgiving and returning after the holiday weekend.
The most expensive days to return home will be the Saturday and Sunday immediately after the holiday. “Returning the week after Thanksgiving on Tuesday or Wednesday (November 29 and 30) can save as much as $270 per ticket,” according to Hopper. “If you choose a shorter itinerary, flying on Black Friday can save you $175 off peak prices.”
Christmas falls on a Sunday this year. So, similarly, flying weekdays — departing the Monday or Tuesday before Christmas weekend and returning the Monday through Wednesday the week following the holiday — will get you the most bang for your buck.
That finding is echoed by Expedia flight data, which shows that travelers can save an average of 15% on airfare simply by departing the first half of the week instead of Thursday or Friday before Christmas. And for certain destinations, such as Cancun, the 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 ahead can save 25%. “Typically hotels lower prices in the month prior to the check-in date so plan to book Thanksgiving hotel stays by the first week of November and Christmas hotel stays by the first week of December,” say Hopper’s analysts. On the other hand, if you’re planning to visit a vacation hotspot, you’ll want to book hotels at least three weeks in advance.
Debating whether to travel over Thanksgiving or Christmas? Go with the former. Expedia’s data on demand shows 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.