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By: Stacey Lastoe, CNN
(CNN) — Thanksgiving is a little more than three months away. Have you booked your flight yet?
The latest research from Google’s Travel team confirms that right about now is the best time to search for and buy a flight for the most popular travel holiday in the United States. Wait until October, and they say you’re likely to see a 95 percent increase in prices.
Super last-minute planners can expect to see another 30 percent increase in prices if November rolls around and no flight or hotel has been booked. Seven days out and you’re looking at even heftier price tags. The research suggests that late August and September bookings secure the best deals.
Another Google finding may surprise travelers who’ve judiciously avoided traveling the Wednesday before Thanksgiving because of heavy crowds and high costs. The company notes that while, sure, Wednesday may be the busiest travel day, it is not necessarily the most expensive.
Thijs van As, flights product manager at Google, encourages smart travelers to look at other factors, such as the length of the trip (shorter trips are typically more pricey than longer ones) as well as the return date.
For Thanksgiving travel, in particular, the determining factor in total airfare cost is the return date. So if you’re not in a rush to return to work and you don’t mind eating leftovers for a couple of more days, extend your trip. You’ll likely see the savings.
Going back the Monday after the holiday is OK, Tuesday is better and Wednesday is best. Have vacation time to burn? Stay into the following week — yes, a whole week after Thanksgiving — and you may just get the deal of your life.
Of course, for travelers staying in a hotel over Thanksgiving, it may not make much financial sense to save a couple hundred bucks on a flight only to throw twice as much toward additional nights for a room.
To help with all of the confusing travel info out there, Google has just debuted a new Google Flights feature to help consumers determine whether the price on a given flight is actually a deal or not. The feature clues you in to what a typical price is based on what flights cost last year when booked in August, September, October and other months in 2017.
But remember, the search tool is pulling up the cheapest flights — in basic economy across all airlines — based on your dates and destination. Add-ons, including seat selection and checked bags, may cost extra depending on the carrier.
So while the feature is helpful in providing some insight, whether it’s a real deal depends largely on your standards and expectations of travel.
You can find all of Google’s latest holiday travel insights here.
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