Sure, fall just begun, but make no mistake: Winter is just around the corner. So, too, is the time to make plans to travel home for Thanksgiving or Christmas. But how soon should you make your out-of-town plans? Is there an ideal date range you should do so? It turns out that if you’re looking for the cheapest time to book holiday flights, and fly, Expedia found out, based on their 2018 flight demand. “Budget is often a key factor in planning a trip, especially during the holiday season,” Alexis Tiacoh, public relations manager at Expedia, tells Bustle. “Between wish lists and coordinating where you’ll actually be on Thanksgiving or Christmas, who wouldn’t appreciate a little insight on how to score the best deals?”
Expedia’s data — which looked at thousands of holiday bookings — uncovered how far in advance you should book flights, as well as the best dates to depart and return. “When travelers take action during these savings sweet spots we’ve identified, they’ll save themselves a lot of time and money,” Tiacoh says. “And, let’s be real, we could all use that during holidays.”
First, she says to keep in mind three key things: it’s often cheaper if you travel on the holiday itself; it’s best to book at least two to four weeks before your trip; and don’t begin your trip on the Saturday before the holiday since it was consistently found to be the priciest day to fly, according to Expedia’s research.
Thanksgiving Booking Tips
Cheapest time to buy: October 29-November 13
Tiacoh says those who booked 91 or more days in advance and less than a week out paid the most; last-minute bookers spent more than 20 percent above average. But booking two to four weeks in advance saved people more than five percent.
Best time to fly: Tiacoh says that, last year, people who departed on Thanksgiving paid about $100 less versus those who left the Saturday before the holiday. Of course, you may not be able to travel on Thanksgiving Day itself. In that case, she says the second-cheapest option would be traveling on Monday or Tuesday of Thanksgiving week. And avoid the Wednesday before Thanksgiving — as you can imagine, it’s the busiest travel day before Thanksgiving, Expedia found.
Christmas Booking Tips
Cheapest time to buy: November 23-December 9
Once again, Tiacoh points out that booking your Christmas travel 2-4 weeks in advance is the optimal time to do so and people saved about 15 percent as a result. Booking 91 or more days in advance cost travelers around 15 percent more than the average holiday traveler, she says, and last-minute travelers paid about two percent more than average.
Best time to fly: Expedia’s data found that Christmas Eve was the cheapest day to fly, and travelers paid around $100 less than those who began their trip on the Saturday before the holiday. December 23 is the second-best choice, Tiacoh says, while the busiest travel day around Christmas is December 21.
Other Money-Saving Flight Tips
In addition to the cheapest dates to book Thanksgiving and Christmas travel, Tiacoh says there are other ways travelers can save money, too. Some include: setting up price alerts for flights and hotels; using travel rewards; enrolling in TSA PreCheck or Clear so you can get through security faster; bundling your flight with a hotel (in case you’re not staying with family or friends); and investigating flight sale dates, such as Expedia’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale, November 29 and December 2. With a little pre-planning, you could save money on your holiday travel and then have more money left for future travel as a result. And who wouldn’t like that?