Of course, the most expensive times to fly each year happen to coincide with the most popular times as well. That means things like Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are all going to be quite a bit more expensive for flying than at other times. Thanks to some new data crunched by the Hipmunk at Hipmunk, we know when is the best time to buy and fly for the 2019 holidays.
When to Buy Airline Tickets for the 2019 Holidays
Link: Hipmunk Blog
This one, according to Hipmunk’s analysis of their data, is a really fast and to the point one – book your Thanksgiving and Christmas vacation flights the first week of September. Doing this will save an average of 12 percent for Thanksgiving and an average of 19 percent for Christmastime.
This means that you have just about one week to line up things with the family to make sure the schedules are going to work. Saving an average of 12 percent for an average of 3-4 people traveling can be some significant savings!
When to Fly for Thanksgiving
Just as important as when to buy is when to fly. For Thanksgiving, we know that is always on a Thursday so that means we also know that Sunday is going to be the most expensive day to return home. How expensive? Hipmunk says the increasing median flight booking is 32% for Sunday return! Again, that is really pricey! That means you are going to want to check out these charts to see the best travel days and what the median booking prices are:
From looking at that chart, you can see that the cheapest median price has you flying on Thanksgiving and returning the next day – certainly not optimal for most! But, for an average of $3 more, you can swing in on Wednesday and out on Friday. Basically, you can keep some of your costs low if you head home on Friday. Leaving Saturday or Sunday will bring up the increased prices. Of course, the most expensive time will be to arrive on Wednesday and depart on Sunday – prime Thanksgiving travel days!
On the other hand, flying on Thanksgiving could still get you to the relative’s home before dinner and you would likely find the airports much quieter. Not only that, but if you have elite airline status, you are also in a much better chance to land a nice upgrade since most business travelers will be at home.
When to Fly for Christmas 2019
Again, if you want the cheapest flights, you will be breezing in on Christmas day and home the next day. As a matter of fact, Hipmunk has found that the booking share for those dates is just .3% of all Christmas bookings! That shows how empty those flights will likely be!
Flying on Christmas Day is not always ideal but if you have to be there with the family, at least you know you could save a bunch of money by flying on Christmas! If you wanted to stretch out the stay, flying in on Christmas and home on the 28th will bump the median price up from $247 on the cheapest days to $335 – still much cheaper than the $547 of the prime travel days of December 21 and 29.
How About Award Travel for Holidays 2019?
Award travel will generally follow the same trends as far as when people are planning on travel which means you will be hard pressed to find ideal travel days at the lowest award prices. So, there are a couple of ways to attack this.
You could take a chance on waiting and see what the airlines do. If anticipated load does not equal reality (especially closer to departure), award tickets do become available. However, you may be waiting until the very last minute. Another option would be book whatever you find at low awards now and monitor the dates you want. If something does open up, you could pay the change fee (which could be substantial but is free on AA more than 21 days out) and chance your already booked awards to the new ones.
With that last point, you would at least have tickets in case things don’t open up. If you book with AA, you can change up to 21 days before the new departure date for free. With Southwest, you can change for free at any time and just pay the difference in fare.
With the first week of September being the time that is the best to buy flights for the holidays, your first order of business is to line all of those dates up with family! This can take a little while. 🙂 Next, check those charts so you know the best days and how to maximize your time with family.
One other option is to go the other way – I know many people that head out of the country for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Particularly at Thanksgiving time, there have often been very good business class ticket sales to Europe from the US so maybe think about heading to the “old country” for your Thanksgiving holiday this year!