The holidays are the season for spending time with your loved ones, no matter how near or far away from your home they are. From Thanksgiving through New Year’s, millions of people hit the road – or take to the air – to travel to see their families and friends. But all of these people trying to get to different destinations makes traveling during the holidays both stressful and expensive.
Flying during the holidays can come with a steep price. In 2019, the cost of a single plane ticket could total as much as $692 for flying between Christmas and New Year’s. However, you don’t have to pay a price that high for airfare. If you follow one specific tip, you could find tickets for less than $500 round-trip.
Here’s the tip you need to know to save money: choose the dates you travel carefully.
Certain dates are busier travel days. And that means there’s an increased demand for flights – giving airlines the opportunity to raise prices and charge travelers a premium. Other dates, however, aren’t nearly as popular. On these days around the holidays, you can score flights at significantly cheaper prices.
If you’re hoping to save money and avoid expensive airfare this holiday season, here are the dates you need to avoid – and the dates you need to try to travel on.
Travel on the Actual Holiday to Find the Cheapest Airfare
If you’re looking for the biggest savings and the cheapest airfare, you’ll want to consider flying on the holidays themselves. Heading to the airport on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, or Christmas day will find much cheaper airfare.
Flights on holidays offer the lowest average price per ticket. It’ll cost approximately $454 to fly on Thanksgiving day. If you choose to fly on Christmas Eve, you’ll spend just a little more at $527.
Why are holiday flights so cheap on the actual holidays? Demand is low. Few people want to travel on holidays – instead, they’d rather arrive early so they’re rested and able to spend the whole day celebrating.
And when demand is low, airlines have trouble filling seats. That means they’re more likely to lower prices.
Try to Travel as Close to the Holidays as Possible
Can’t bring yourself to travel on the actual holiday? You can still find reasonable – or slightly cheaper – airfare if you travel as close to the holidays as possible.
For example, Christmas Eve is one of the best days of the holiday season to travel. AAA calls Christmas Eve the “lightest travel day of the year,” meaning demand for tickets is low. Airfare across the board is reasonably priced, and anywhere from tens to hundreds of dollars cheaper than flying December 23 or earlier. For example, Hipmunk found airfare for as little as $247 on December 24.
There’s only one holiday where this doesn’t apply: Thanksgiving. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is always the busiest travel day of the entire year. And airfare can be extremely expensive that day.
Travel Early to Avoid Sky-High Holiday Prices
Here’s another way you can save money when planning and booking your holiday airfare. When traveling on or very close to the holidays themselves doesn’t work, consider heading out on vacation earlier than you usually would.
For example, Smarter Travel considers the Monday before Thanksgiving to be the best travel day for that holiday. If you can’t fly on Thanksgiving, Monday is your next cheapest option. When it comes to Christmas, heading out of town before the holiday rush begins can save you money. Christmas is a little trickier to predict, as the holiday always falls on a different day of the week.
Traveling early comes with complications and challenges. You’ll likely have to take more time off work, and it may not mesh with kids’ school schedules. But if you can make it work for your holiday plans, it could save you a lot of money on airfare.
Remember, people want to travel when it’s convenient. But when demand is higher, and there are more travelers looking for flights, airfare becomes much more expensive. By choosing a less popular – or less convenient – option, you’ll likely save money.
Search for Affordable Airfare Before the Holidays Arrive
Keep the most important tip in mind when you’re booking your holiday travel: pick and choose your travel dates carefully. And, if possible, try to fly on holidays to score the biggest savings on airfare.
But even more importantly, make sure to search and shop around before booking any airfare. Airlines change prices frequently, and they often offer cheaper tickets if demand isn’t there from customers. If you’re searching for low prices, you need to take the time to compare different airlines, different travel dates, and different options for your holiday travel.