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Now’s the Time to Snag Holiday Airline Deals, Here’s How To Get the Best Deals

If you plan to travel this holiday season — don't wait much longer to book your travel

The Vacationeer
Couple smiling and looking at iPad together in a kitchen.

If you're planning on flying this holiday season, now's the time to book your flights.

Travel experts project the second full week of September is the very best time to snag a great deal on holiday flights.

Those in the know report that domestic flights should drop 10 percent this month. They also predict that fares for international flights will beat both 2019 and 2020 prices. 

The key is to act now. That's because fares will gradually creep up about 11 percent until Halloween. Once November hits, they'll shoot upwards of 40 percent for Thanksgiving flights and 18 percent for the three weeks before December 25. In some cases, you could end up paying double by waiting just a few extra weeks to buy your tickets. 

Why So Low?         

In general, it's better to buy your airline tickets sooner rather than later. That's because fares tend to rise the closer you book toward your departure date. 

Interior shot of empty air port with plane parked outside window.  

Of course, the pandemic upended this tried-and-true advice in many ways. But things are starting to return to normal.

According to a 2021 survey from CheapAircom that analyzed more than 917 million domestic airfares, the best time to buy airline tickets is 64 days before you plan to fly. So it makes sense that you'd want to book your Thanksgiving tickets in mid-September.

Another contributing factor behind these great fares is the recent pullback in business travel.

Many companies canceled in-person meetings and conferences as the delta variant swept across the globe. That put a dent in the airlines' finances since business travel tends to be especially lucrative. To compensate, airlines began to lower fares to get nonbusiness travelers to fill those empty seats.

COVID-19 Considerations

The pandemic has understandably made many people skittish about flying. That said, it might still be a good idea to buy airline tickets now even if you're taking a wait-and-see approach. 

In addition to catching the best deal, you'll also benefit from many airlines' relaxed change and cancellation policies. Some have entirely waived fees to change or cancel flights, while others drop them under certain circumstances. So definitely check out an airline's change and cancellation policies before you book—in some cases, it might make sense to pay a little more for increased flexibility.      

Holiday Travel Deals by the Numbers

Ocean Drive lighting up the night sky in Miami Beach, Florida.    

Here's what you can expect to pay for holiday travel this year.

  • $269: The average domestic round trip holiday ticket price
  • $169: The average price to fly roundtrip to Fort Lauderdale, the cheapest holiday travel destination. (And the only one running under $200.)
  • $281: Cost to fly from D.C. to Dublin
  • $305: Cost to fly from Los Angeles to Paris
  • 11 to 40 percent: How much holiday fares are predicted to rise after October 31 
  • 23 percent: How much international ticket prices are expected to increase in December

When it comes to domestic destinations for Thanksgiving, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Denver are the most searched. However, Denver comes out on top for domestic Christmas travel, followed by Los Angeles and Miami

For international Thanksgiving travel, top spots include San Juan, Puerto Rico, London and Cancun. San Juan is also the most searched for Christmas travel, followed by Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and Mexico City. 

7 Ways to Save on Holiday Airfare

Here are some tried-and-true ways to save on flights.

Don't delay. By now, you already know that now is the time to buy. But if you're still on the fence, it's okay to wait until Halloween. But try not to wait any longer than that because insiders predict prices to surge in November.  

Be flexible. This applies to both the time of day you fly and the day you fly. Generally speaking, the cheapest flights tend to take off in the early morning or late at night. (So don't rule out the red-eye.)

When it comes to which days to fly over the holidays, the most expensive are Sunday, November 28, and Sunday, December 26. On the flip side, the most inexpensive days to fly are Monday, November 22, and Christmas Eve. Aggregator sites like Google Flights let you view prices for up to two months at a time.

Group of friends enjoying cocktails and appetizers at The Central at 5th by Hilton Club in New York City.     

Track airline prices. Apps like Skyscanner and Hopper let you set price alerts for destinations and dates in which you're interested. They then alert you when prices go up or down, so you know the best time to buy.

Consider a budget airline. These no-frills flights often (but not always) have the best deals. The key is to factor in how much checked bags, carry-on bags and seat selection add to the total cost. Popular budget airlines include Spirit, Southwest, Allegiant, Frontier and JetBlue. 

Don't be afraid to use multiple airlines. Using one airline for an entire trip is convenient. But it might not be the most cost-effective option. Use an aggregator site like Kayak to see if you can save by mixing up which airlines you take for different legs of your trip.

Consider a less popular airport. There can be a surprising amount of savings between nearby airports. If plans allow, try pricing out another one. Many sites let you click a button for "nearby airports" when you search.

Pack light. By now, we're all aware of the many fees to check (and sometimes even carry on) bags. Avoid these extra charges by reviewing baggage policies and traveling light. Also, keep in mind that it may be cheaper to mail gifts or order them online and have them sent directly to your destination.

Read "4 Money-Saving Travel Apps to Download Today" for more wallet-friendly travel trips. 

 

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Vacationeer

The Vacationeer

The Vacationeer is a collective of Hilton Grand Vacations storytellers whose goal is to inspire travelers to go further. We're always on the lookout for new destinations to explore, useful travel tips, and unique ideas to help you plan the most memorable vacations possible.

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