The holidays are great: You get time off work to visit family and friends, and you can just kick back and relax. But it also means higher airline prices if you want to travel. The reason? The simple economic principle of supply and demand.
“Holiday travel always tends to be more expensive than non-holiday dates because it’s the most convenient time for most people to travel,” says Patrick Surry, Chief Data Scientist at Hopper, a flight search website.
Airlines know when there’s an increase in search for seats on their flights. That boosts demand, which boosts the price of your ticket by 75 percent.
Here’s how you can still get away during peak seasons without going into debt.
The cheapest day to fly for every major holiday
We tapped several flight comparison websites to pull the data for the cheapest day to fly for all the major holidays.
Surry says holiday airfare “will begin rising by $4 per day you wait” around Thanksgiving time.
And according to CheapAir, the six days leading up to Thanksgiving are some of the most searched of the year making it one of the most expensive times to fly.
Best day to book a flight: Priceline suggests the best day to purchase your tickets is Nov. 2, when average round-trip ticket prices are $233.
To determine this, Priceline looked at the top 20 overall most popular flight itineraries over the last year and the historical booking data from the last 12 months based on these itineraries to determine the cheapest day/week to fly.
Cheapest day of the week to fly: CheapAir’s data reveals flying earlier in the week — Nov. 19 or 20 — are the days where you’ll get the best value.
Meanwhile, the cheapest days of the week to fly overall are the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving.
The Sunday after Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year, so avoid that if possible.
Along with Thanksgiving, Christmas is one of the busiest times to fly. According to Airfare Watchdog, air travel will be up 53 percent this year. It’s also one of the most expensive times to fly.
Surry explains: “Christmas flight prices tend to rise more steadily as Christmas approaches and then spike in the last 10 days. In the final two weeks leading up to Christmas, flight prices will spike by $7 per day.”
Best day to book a flight: The best day to book a flight for Christmas travel is four weeks out on Saturday (around Nov. 25 if you want to fly on Dec. 22). You’ll find tickets cost an average of $222 round-trip, according to Priceline data.
Cheapest day of the week to fly: CheapAir, which calculated the average holiday flight cost by tracking more than 3.6 million airfares over 11,000 itineraries per day for the holiday season, says you’ll score the best savings if you depart on Dec. 20 and return on Dec. 27.
And if you skip opening presents on Christmas Day and hop on a plane instead, you could save an average of $50 per ticket.
While you can save money by strategically booking your Dec. 22 flight, it is still the most expensive day to fly for the 2017 Christmas holiday.
Want to ring in 2018 someplace other than your living room? CheapAir recommends booking as early as possible.
Best day to book a flight: Booking your New Year’s flight in October will only cost you about $5 more than if you had bought it earlier. But, if you wait until November, you’re looking at an increase of $56 on average for your ticket fare and a bump of $143 per ticket in December.
Cheapest day of the week to fly: Kayak’s data from 2016 revealed departing on Dec. 31 was the cheapest time to fly (with a return date of Jan. 2 or 3). CheapAir advises staying away from flying on Jan. 1.
If possible, return home later in the first week of the new year to really score some savings. “You can often save hundreds of dollars if you have flexibility with your dates and destination,” says Surry. “In fact, you can find some of the best airfare bargains right after New Year’s because demand dies down following the holidays.”
It’s hard to think about booking spring travel when the leaves are just starting to change, but it’s always good to think ahead.
While you don’t have to book Memorial Day travel for the next few months, you might want to mark April on your calendar to start doing some research.
Best day to book a flight: According to Skyscanner’s data from Memorial Day 2017, booking the last week of April could save you about 5 percent on airfare.
Cheapest day of the week to fly: When should you actually be jetting off? The cheapest days to fly are Thursday to Saturday before Memorial Day, according to Skyscanner, and returning between Sunday and Tuesday after. Put your vacation request in early!
Fourth of July
This firework-filled holiday is one of the most difficult to calculate discount fares depending on which day of the week it falls.
For example, in 2016, July 4 was a Monday. That means more people were likely taking advantage of the long weekend. Since it falls smack-dab in the middle of the week in 2018, flight prices might be a bit more flexible.
Best day to book a flight: “Hard data for 2018 Independence Day travel isn’t likely to come out until the spring,” says Surry. “In general, buying your tickets 75 to 60 days before departure as they tend to increase significantly 28 days before flying out.”
Want to fly out the Monday before July 4? Mark your calendars to start searching late April/early May.
Cheapest day of the week to fly: Data is not available yet for July 4, 2018, but if flight and price patterns are anything like this past year, then flying on Independence Day is your best bet, according to CheapAir.
Also, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in July offer much better savings overall than weekend travel.
Who doesn’t want to soak up the last long weekend of summer? Make sure you can truly relax by saving some money when it comes to airfare.
Best day to book a flight: Kayak data from 2017 reveals that the best day to book a Labor Day flight is before Aug. 10, when median domestic airfares are $200. While that gives you a large window to make a decision, don’t wait any longer — airfare will jump significantly.
Alternatively, Hopper’s data pinpoints 28 days before departure as the ideal purchase day.
Cheapest day of the week to fly: Logistically, it’s best to book a departing flight for the Sunday before the holiday and return the Tuesday after. True, it may be a shorter getaway, but leaving the Thursday before could cost you an additional $150 on airfare, according to Kayak.
While this data varies from year to year, it’s certainly a great starting point to ensure you get the most bang for your buck when it comes to holiday travel.
Waiting too long or booking too early can mean steeper airline ticket prices. Knowing the best days to book a flight and the cheapest days to fly means you can spend more time (and less money) on your next vacation.
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