At the cusp of the upcoming season, there are often two kinds of people: those who embrace the early onset of fall and run to the nearest cafe to get their pumpkin spice fix; and those who cling to the last vestiges of summer and lament the onset of extra layers, unmoved by gourd-inspired lattes.
Whether you’re Team Summer or Team Fall, there’s likely one thing you’re not thinking about yet: the holiday season. And that can create a problem if you’re planning to travel for Thanksgiving or Christmas and want to take advantage of the best airfare rates.
Hipmunk, a travel booking and comparison website, recently analyzed historical airfare pricing to determine when travelers could save the most money booking their holiday flights in 2017. What they found may surprise you, and will likely have you thinking about the holidays a little sooner than you’d like.
The following is a breakdown of when you should book to save the most money, when you absolutely must book to save some money, and when you’re just giving your money to the airlines.
The week of September 25 is the time to book holiday airfare for the most money savings. According to Hipmunk, Thanksgiving travelers could save up to 27 percent on airfare, while early birds booking Christmas travel will save upwards of 38 percent.
Most people purchase holiday travel in the beginning of October. By booking your flights ahead of everyone else, you get your choice of seating and airfare rates.
If you can’t make the last week of September work for your budget, there is a next-best-time to book holiday airfare: the last week in October. Hipmunk’s data found Thanksgiving travelers saved up to 24 percent on airfare (just 3-percent less than booking a month early) and Christmas travelers saved up to 31 percent.
The deadline for booking holiday airfare to take advantage of solid savings is October 30. You’ll be knee-deep in last-minute Halloween planning at that time, but don’t let that distract you: otherwise, you’ll spend an arm and a leg on holiday flights.
TAKE MY MONEY
Beyond October 30, you’ll pay peak prices for holiday airfare. Compared to the average booking price on September 25 for Thanksgiving travel costs, you’ll pay $100 more if you book on Nov. 20. For Christmas, the price disparity is even wider: those who purchase travel on Dec. 18 will pay $139 more compared to early-bird bookers on Sept. 25.
BUSIEST TRAVEL DAYS
In addition to the cost associated with traveling during the holidays, the crowds are an added stressor to an already hectic time. Hipmunk found the busiest days to travel include the day before Thanksgiving (Nov. 22), and the two days before Christmas Eve (Dec. 22 and Dec. 23).
Those who want to avoid the crowds should travel on the holidays themselves, since very few people choose to depart or arrive on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.