The much-anticipated Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays may still be months away, but the best time to book flights for these busy travel weeks is quickly approaching.
In fact, a recent analysis of AAA flight booking data from the last three years reveals Sept. 25 marks the start of the best booking window for air travel around both the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
According to Paula Twidale, vice president of AAA Travel, holiday travelers should make their plans now and begin booking flights for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“Procrastinating travelers may be able to find last-minute deals on flights close to the holidays, as airlines look to fill their last few remaining seats, but flight availability for these peak travel weeks will be very limited by that time,” said Twidale.
Most travelers book their flights for Thanksgiving between now and Oct. 27, which is 28 to 60 days prior to the holiday and offers relatively good prices.
Surprisingly, AAA’s analysis found that travelers can find some of the best pricing seven to 13 days before the holiday, Nov. 11-17 this year. However, limited availability will make seats hard to come by at discounted rates.
Flying Monday of Thanksgiving week is the best option for travelers to arrive at their destinations before the holiday. It has the lowest average ticket price prior to the holiday and is a lighter travel day than later in the week.
For travelers more concerned about crowds than cost, the Sunday before the holiday has the highest average price per ticket and it is consistently the lightest travel day.
Travelers can save by traveling Thanksgiving Day, which has the lowest average price per ticket.
While many travelers are focused on Thanksgiving, they would be wise to consider Christmas now as well.
AAA found 61 to 90 days prior to the holiday (between Sept. 26 and Oct. 25) is the sweet spot for Christmas flight bookings, with prices lower on average than more advanced bookings.
However, most travelers book between 28 and 60 days before Christmas – between Oct. 26 and Nov. 27 – and still get a relatively good price.
Like Thanksgiving, last-minute Christmas travelers can find the overall best pricing ($488 on average) seven to 13 days before the holiday week, but flight availability is likely to be very limited by that time. AAA found that Christmas Eve is the best day to travel. It consistently has the lowest average price per ticket and is the lightest travel day of the week.
Many travelers opt to travel after the Christmas holiday leading up to the new year, and they pay a premium to do so. Dec. 26 has the highest average ticket price of the week.
When it comes to getting the best value for one’s travel this holiday season, AAA recommends to:
• Start researching holiday travel options now and book flights by Oct. 27.
• Consult a knowledgeable travel agent; they can take the guesswork out of researching and evaluating the many available options, saving time, the hassle and the headache.
• Consider purchasing travel insurance for your flight to protect your trip from life’s unexpected surprises that can throw a wrench in your plans.
For more information, visit AAA.com/Travel.