When Should I Book My Holiday Flights? The Cheapest Time To Fly Around Christmas And New Year's Eve

The holiday season is something I always look forward to with unbridled excitement and joy — until it's time to book my Christmas flight home back to Chicago and I'm suddenly punched in the face with air fares that are anything but jolly. To be fair, I'm a chronic procrastinator who waits until the last minute to do just about everything, but after years of paying zillions of dollars in air fare (I'm also a chronic exaggerator), I've decided to do things a little differently this season — and luckily Kayak is here to help. After analyzing millions of queries conducted on Kayak last year, the travel site crunched a few numbers to figure out what days are best for holiday travel, and when you should book your ticket to save the most money. Consider it an early Christmas present.

So when is the best time to book your holidays flights, you ask? Chances are you're still reeling from the mega hit your wallet took after buying your plane tickets home for Thanksgiving. But as long as travel is on your mind, it doesn't hurt to start planning your next holiday trip now. In fact, it's advisable. If you're flying domestically, Kayak recommends booking your flight at least three weeks in advance. Wait any longer than that, and you’re going to find yourself face to face with some pretty ugly fares — up to 36 percent higher than what you’d pay if you booked now.

And even though flying on Christmas day might seem like less fun than a sack of coal, it could be the best thing for your bank account. According to Kayak, departing and returning on Christmas day will get you the cheapest fare, regardless of whether you're flying domestically or internationally. If you're flying to the midwest, you're in for even more discounts. Compared to last year, flights to Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Chicago experienced the greatest drops in air fare this season at 21 percent, 15 percent and 13 percent, respectively. So if you're willing to brave the freezing cold elements all in the name of saving some money, you might suggest hosting your family gathering in the Windy City this year. Or if sunshine is more your thing (weirdo), go to the Bahamas. If you book it now, a trip to Nassau will only cost you around $542, down 11 percent from last year.

As for New Year's Eve travel, Kayak recommends travelers book their flights early in December, when average fares are at their lowest. Planning on taking your NYE celebrations abroad? If you’re flying to Europe, book your tickets now, as fares will only get more expensive the longer you wait.

A few other handy travel tips to get you through the holiday season? Consider flying Tuesday through Tuesday (December 23 through December 30, for those of you flying around Christmas). According to CheapAir, traveling on these days is less expensive. January 4 is most likely to be the most expensive day to fly back following your holiday vacation, and if you're OK with getting up early, there are savings to be had if you travel in the morning — especially on New Year's Day. Don't worry. You can sleep on the plane.

Images: Kayak