When Is the Best Time to Book a Flight for Thanksgiving?

time-book-flight-thanksgiving Credit: iStock

Traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday can be stressful. In addition to crowded airports and potential weather-related delays, travelers must contend with notoriously high plane fares. However, consumers who are willing to compare prices, be flexible, and buy tickets early in the season can find fares that are reasonably priced.

Ticket Prices
In 2016, plane tickets for a domestic trip lasting from Wednesday to Sunday on the week of Thanksgiving cost $662 on average, as reported by farecompare.com. Tickets for a trip lasting from Sunday to Sunday that same week cost $642 on average, as reported by farecompare.com. While these fares can vary based on the airline, destination, and date of ticket purchase, they are dramatically higher than the average price of a round trip ticket at other times of the year. Buying tickets for Thanksgiving travel earlier can help travelers avoid having to purchase these expensive fares.

When to Buy
Consumers who buy plane tickets for Thanksgiving 61-90 days in advance usually save about 10 percent off of the average ticket price, according to data collected by Expedia. This means that the best time to buy tickets falls in the last half of August and first half of September each year. Between mid-September and the end of October, travelers may be able to find Thanksgiving flights at prices 4 percent lower than the average, reports Skyscanner.

However, waiting until the last minute to buy flights for Thanksgiving can be expensive. Travelers who buy tickets after the end of September can expect ticket prices to increase quickly following Halloween. Those who wait until the last minute to buy plane tickets can expect to see prices jump by about $10 every day starting two weeks prior to Thanksgiving, according to Time.com.

Additional Ways to Save
Consumers looking for additional ways to save on holiday travel may want to consider being flexible with their travel dates. The majority of Thanksgiving travel occurs on the Wednesday before the holiday and the Sunday following. Those with flexible timelines can save money by arriving the weekend before the holiday or on Thanksgiving morning itself, and returning home midway through the week after Thanksgiving.

Travelers can also save money on holiday travel by not checking baggage and booking a flight with a layover. Connecting flights can often bring the overall price of travel down, and checking bags can often be a costly addition to the cost of a plane ticket. Using websites that aggregate fares from multiple airlines, or checking websites of competing airlines for better prices can also help travelers find less expensive fares.

Alternate Destinations
Another way to save money on Thanksgiving travel is by choosing to celebrate in an alternate location. While airfare prices within the United States increase around Thanksgiving, tickets to locations in Europe and Asia often decrease in the late fall, as tourist destinations hope to attract additional travelers in the off season. Flights to countries such as France, Greece, and the Philippines can be up to 20 percent less expensive than average during the late fall.