The Best Time to Book a Thanksgiving Flight Isn't When You Think

Thanksgiving is approaching so fast, you can almost taste the stuffing. But before you can even think about sitting around the table with your loved ones, you're going to have to find a way to get home first — especially if home is out of state. So when is the best time to book a Thanksgiving flight? Most would say, “The sooner the better.” But that’s not always true during the holidays, as prices fluctuate daily, sometimes hourly. I know it sounds a little stressful, but don't worry. This doesn't have to be painful.

First, compile your resources. CheapAir.com has put together a handy chart of the best days to fly for the holidays, and calculated the average price of flights on the current calendar. In the case of Thanksgiving, airfare typically drops drastically on Halloween, and then slowly begins to rise as Turkey Day approaches. But while you might feel the urge to drop what you’re doing now and buy the next available ticket home, waiting a few more days could actually be your best bet. According to Kayak, you'll get the best deals if you buy your Thanksgiving flight two to four weeks in advance — just don't wait until the last minute, or your wallet will take a beating.

Timing is everything when buying airline tickets, so before you snag your Thanksgiving flight, take a second to do a little planning and figure out the best days to fly home and back — you might even save a little money on the way. Here are seven things to take into consideration before booking your Thanksgiving plane tickets.

1. Best Day for T-Day Flights

When it comes to Thanksgiving flights, you'll get the best bang for your buck if you book your ticket for two or three days before Thanksgiving. You stand to save the most money if you fly out on a Monday or Tuesday, which are the cheapest days to snag your seat. Traveling the day before Thanksgiving is going to cost you the most money, but there are deals to be found if you adjust your schedule and fly out two days earlier.

2. Worst Day to Fly

Typically as the holiday approaches, flights get more expensive. So naturally tickets will skyrocket if you're planning on flying the day before Thanksgiving. In fact, this is one of the most expensive days of the year to travel, so think about adjusting your schedule accordingly. Also avoid booking flights on November 30 — the Sunday after Thanksgiving is traditionally the busiest day of the year for air travel, and will cost you the highest fares.

3. Best Bargain

It might seem a little risky, but flying out on Thanksgiving day could be your best option. Plane tickets for this day tend to be the cheapest (fares are a full 30 percent cheaper than they would be normally), and it's also the least busy day to fly. You might get stuck with cold turkey, but at least you'll snag a great fare!

4. Best Return Flights

The Sunday after Thanksgiving is the busiest and most expensive time to fly back, but getting home doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg. Instead, try flying back the day after Thanksgiving or, if you can take the extra time off, fly back on December 2nd. According to FareCompare.com, Tuesdays are usually among the most affordable days to fly, and this remains true through the holidays.

5. Pack Light

Pack light. If you manage to fit everything in a carry-on, then you'll save money and time by skipping baggage claim. For domestic flights, checking in a bag can range anywhere from $15 to $50.

6. Book a Red Eye

If you really want to cut your cost of travel, schedule a red-eye flight. These flights usually take off and land in the wee hours of the morning, but they're deeply discounted due to the inconvenient time.

7. Consider a Layover

The more you stop, the cheaper the cost. If you're going to be on a plane for more than three hours, then it might be a good idea to take a flight with a layover. Stretch your legs, use a normal-sized restroom, and grab a bite to eat before jumping on the next plane. It may take longer to get to your destination, but it'll definitely save you money.

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