Why You Should Shop Early for Holiday Flights

People procrastinate in most areas of their lives but here’s one fun area you really shouldn’t – purchasing Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Years flights!

family holiday flights

CheapAir.com has been producing a Holiday Flights report to help people make informed decisions about their holiday planning for years. While we know that you might be tempted to start shopping for holiday flights pretty late (after all, there might be a sale), you really shouldn’t put this purchase off.

Sale airfares during Thanksgiving week and the Christmas season are rare. Prices start already set at a premium (published fares for the holidays are usually priced 10-20% above other times of year. One easy way you can stack the “reasonable fare” odds in your favor is by being an early bird, when the fares are lower.

When to Buy Thanksgiving Airline Tickets
The ideal month to get the lowest price on a Thanksgiving flight is actually September (according to our flight shopping data from 2018).

best month to buy thanksgiving flights

Last year, late summer and early fall gave customers the best prices (just over $350 on average). Early summer is also a relatively inexpensive time to buy.

It probably will not surprise you to hear that November is a terrible month to buy Thanksgiving flights, though perhaps not quite as bad as you’d think. On average, customers pay about $75 more when they wait until November to purchase airline tickets for Turkey Day.

When to Buy Christmas/New Years Airline Tickets
The least expensive month to buy Christmas and New Years flights is September! Our sales data from 2018 shows that the lowest prices occur in September, when flights are about $75 less on average than the same flight purchased in December.

best month to buy christmas flights

The best airfare prices are found in September, July and June, while the most expensive airfare prices are in December just before the holidays themselves, and earlier in the year in March and February. That’s great news for people who thought they might already be too late to score a “deal.”

While airfare sales during the busy holiday season are not common, you can occasionally find sale fares. Keep your eyes peeled later in the summer months – and plan to shop on Tuesdays when the airlines publish their sale fares.

Managing your expectations is also key. If you’re looking to fly to a U.S. destination for a family visit, those metropolitan areas/cities are where you’ll likely find the best value.

On the other hand, when you’re flying to New York, Orlando, Hawaii or pretty much any beach destination in Mexico, you should know that those are extremely popular holiday destinations that will probably not see sale fares. We recommend buying early when it comes to popular leisure travel spots – with limited numbers of discount seats on any given flight, once those lowest-priced seats are gone, they typically don’t come back.

Every year we hear from customers who are shocked that the flight that was $220 in August has spiked and is now $600 in November. Do some research so you know if your vacation spot is popular during the holidays. If so, you’ll want to buy even earlier than you think you should to get the best-priced ticket possible.

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