The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are shaping up to be the most expensive in recent years for travelers. A jump in airfare prices is part of a continued fallout from the pandemic, as airlines scale up their schedules and combat rising jet fuel prices.
Travel fare-tracking and booking app Hopper says to expect both a busy and expensive holiday travel season as “more than half of Americans plan to travel for both holidays this year.”
“With both Thanksgiving and Christmas airfares expected to be higher than in previous years, we recommend travelers start planning early by monitoring prices now,” says Hopper Lead Economist Hayley Berg, “Flexible travelers will save the most this holiday season. If you can be flexible on travel dates and fly before and after each holiday week you can save as much as $300 off-peak airfares.”
Here’s how to be a cost-conscious traveler and navigate exorbitant holiday fares.
Sign Up For Alerts
Do your research and sign up for alerts so you can shop around and see if there’s a price drop.
Best & Worst Days to Fly
Be flexible with your travel dates. Traveling on off-peak days will save you a significant amount of money. The Wednesday before, and the Sunday after Thanksgiving are some of the most expensive travel days of the entire year. Wait until Monday to save. If you’re thinking outside the U.S., you could score cheaper international tickets if you fly during Thanksgiving week.
Since Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, and most businesses will be closed on Monday, prices will likely be the highest to fly the Friday before Christmas and the following Monday and Tuesday.
Track Ticket Prices
Use a tool such as Google Flights or Skyscanner to track ticket prices based on specific flights, routes, and dates. Play around with the dates to find better prices. Sign up for daily updates on how much the price has changed. These apps can also show you the price range for the flight, which tells you when a good time to buy is.
Follow airlines on social media for promo codes, sales and last-minute deals you may have missed otherwise.
Big-name booking sites like Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz; and metasearch sites such as Kayak, allow you to search hundreds of travel sites at once to compare prices. They make it easy to see a lot of options. Don’t forget some of the smaller sites such as Airfare Watchdog and Bing Travel as they may have different search results.
Check out opaque sites like Hotwire and Priceline for the opportunity to bid on flights or rooms, or buy them immediately for the stated price. On opaque sites, the supplier (hotel, airline) remains hidden until the purchase is complete. Both of these sites have been around for years, helping travelers bag the best bargains on airfares, lodging, and car rentals.
Don’t Forget to Check Fees
Bag fees and flight change fees are currently in flux. And other fees may apply too, such as for specific meals and seat assignments. With so many different airline fees, it makes sense to include additional fees when comparing ticket prices. For an up-to-date comparison, see Kayaks’s list of airline fees.
Another way to get discounts is via air/hotel or air/hotel/car bundled deals through airline or hotel loyalty programs or travel rewards credit cards. Senior and student discounts abound. Some air/hotel packages use cheaper airfares than you’ll find on Kayak, Orbitz, etc.
BONUS TIP: Tower’s World Mastercard earns you cash back on everything you buy, or you can redeem points for travel, merchandise, gift cards and more.
Resources: Smarter Travel Media LLC, MoneyTalksNews, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Lonely Planet, KAYAK, Scott’s Cheap Flights