At this point, it’s basically a given that flying anywhere during the holiday season is going to be more expensive than flying during pretty much any other time of the year. Airlines seem to take advantage of the fact that people want to go home to spend Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve with their families, and so they inflate prices to a sometimes laughable degree. This also happens to be one of those times where spending extra money is hard, because you’re also spending money on gifts. It’s rough for anyone who has to travel! Luckily, there are ways to save a little money — you just need to know the tricks. For starters: you have to be aware of the the best time to book a holiday plane ticket.
If you wanted to buy flights for Thanksgiving, the best time was back in September and August, so unfortunately, you’ve likely missed that. But if you’re flying somewhere for Christmas, you still have time to get in on a good deal. According to data from Skyscanner, the best time to buy a Christmas flight is between Oct. 8 and Nov. 19. If you book during this time period, you can save about 3 percent on your Christmas flights. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but every little bit helps when it comes to a plane ticket that costs a few hundred dollars!
If you can’t buy a plane ticket until after Nov. 19, that might mean you’ll miss out on some good deals, but not all of them. To try and save money, do your research and be flexible. If you’re set on flying on a specific day at a specific time on a specific airline, you’re narrowing down your options a lot. If you’re willing to look around, use any airline, and maybe adjust your time away, you have a better chance of finding a cheaper flight.
According to data from CheapAir, flying from Dec. 18 through Dec. 28 is the cheapest time, so if you’re able to take a longer vacation, it might be worth it. Flying out on Christmas Eve could also save you an average of $76 per ticket. Likewise, flying out on New Year’s Eve is the cheapest day to fly for the holiday, and waiting to leave on Jan. 3 instead of Jan. 2 can save an average of $60 per ticket.
If you can, don’t book a flight during the weekend right before the holidays, according to Priceline. You should also be flexible on the time of the flight. Cheapest flights are early, from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. or the evening after 8 p.m. And whatever you do, try to book your tickets before the 21-day mark. Flavie Lemarchand-Wood, Priceline.com’s Vice President of Communications, told Real Simple, “Once you hit that 21-day window, fares usually start to escalate. And the most expensive days to reserve a fare are usually within seven days of departure, which is why I tell people to never wait on airfare if they see a price that they like, because odds are it will cost more if they procrastinate.”
So, basically, if you need to book airfare for the holidays, the time to act is right now!