These Are the Best Times to Book Holiday Travel

published Nov 22, 2019
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The holiday season is something I romanticize in my head. That is, until the holiday season is actually here and I remember I have to not only buy presents for everyone in my family, but I also need to figure out my travel plans—preferably on the cheap.

Holiday travel gets a bad rap for good reason. It’s kind of the worst. According to AAA, a third of Americans are going to be traveling by plane, trains, and automobiles this holiday season. 112.5 million people in total are expected to be hitting the road or sky, which is a 4.4% increase from last year.

While you may have already purchased your Thanksgiving ticket way in advance (smart cookie!), there’s a chance you may have held off until the last second in hopes of a better deal. Luckily, plane ticket prices hold steady until 8 days prior to Thanksgiving Day (November 28), so you still have a couple more days to book your flight without completely emptying your savings account. Less than 8 days out, prices surge, become 47% more expensive, according to Priceline

There is a Thanksgiving travel hack, though.

If you can arrive Thanksgiving Day (versus the day before), then you can save about $40 on average per ticket. Since Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t usually start until mid-day, arriving Thanksgiving afternoon really isn’t worst-case scenario. While flying in late isn’t ideal, see if your family is willing to do Black Friday brunch and use up all those turkey dinner leftovers. Saving money on your plane ticket, being prudent about leftovers—look at you, being a fantastic adult human. 

If you’re working on Christmas travel plans, you’re in luck.

If Thanksgiving planning has already come and gone, you could still be focusing on how you’re going to get to your family’s house on Christmas. According to Priceline, you still have time to book a cheaper flight. Until seven days prior to December 22, flight prices will stay steady. However, if you book further than a week out, tickets grow 23 percent more expensive.

Yup, there’s also a Christmas travel hack, too!

Similar to Thanksgiving, if you are cool with arriving on Christmas Day (instead of three days before), you’ll be able to save an average of $125 per ticket. Compared to two days prior, you’ll save an average of $75 per ticket. While that does mean you’ll miss Christmas Eve and most likely Christmas morning, you’ll still have the rest of the week (Christmas Day falls on a Wednesday) to spend with your fam, along with New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day if you’re able to get that time off. 

If you’ve already booked your holiday travel (lucky duck!) but want a heads-up for next year, Priceline put together the most affordable destinations for Thanksgiving. This is especially helpful if you’re looking to take a vacation during Thanksgiving (versus going back home). Here are the cheapest places to travel during Thanksgiving week: 

  1. Page, AZ 
  2. Saint George, UT 
  3. Reno, NV 
  4. Jacksonville, FL 
  5. Madison, WI 
  6. Branson, MO 
  7. Houston, TX 
  8. Chicago, IL 
  9. Las Vegas, NV 
  10. Milwaukee, WI 

If all else fails and you’re stuck with expensive plane tickets to your hometown, all the more reason to treat yourself to that second (or third or fourth) serving of pumpkin pie. You’ll nail travel plans next year.