Winter holiday travel: take the flights now or roll the dice?

Winter holiday travel: take the flights now or roll the dice?
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(CNN) – High prices, canceled flights, booked accommodation and rental cars. Travel chaos summer still looks somehow warm and fresh.

But it’s time to look ahead, because less than two months away there’s another time of crisis approaching: the winter holiday travel season of 2022.

So put up your t-shirts, take off your sweaters and get ready for winter vacation. Here’s what you need to know:

When should I buy tickets for winter holiday flights?

Deciding when to buy plane tickets seems more complicated than ever. Prices change daily or even hourly. The staff and capacity consequences of the pandemic are still being felt.

But October is probably the best window of opportunity. In other words, NOW.

“Often… travelers start planning their vacation trips too late and miss out on some of the best prices available,” said chief economist Hayley Berg. receptacle, planning and booking travel app. He told CNN Travel that he has seen people waiting later than usual to seal the deal during the pandemic recovery.

“Especially for the holidays, this is a real issue because now is the best time to book your Thanksgiving and Christmas trip,” Berg said.

Hopper suggested in an email to wait until mid-October at the latest.

Berg said it’s not just a pricing issue. He also pointed out another risk of waiting: “Flights may run out completely on the dates you want to fly.”

Worst time to book? ‘Last minute’

Scott Keyes, founder of flight deals and travel advice site Scott’s Cheap FlightsHe told CNN Travel that the best deals were actually last summer (remember that for 2023). “But don’t be discouraged this year,” he said.

“The second best time to book your flights is now – because the worst time to book them is to wait until the last minute,” Keyes said. “If you haven’t booked these flights yet and are really hoping to travel during the winter holidays, try to book them in the next week or two.”

Keyes thinks plane tickets will become more expensive as Thanksgiving and Christmas get closer.

Phil Dengler, co-owner of travel resource vacationeruses a popular fall holiday as a guide.

“I see Halloween as the deadline to get a reasonable price on a Thanksgiving flight, but aim to book before then,” Dengler said in an email interview. Said. “After Halloween, prices will increase significantly as Thanksgiving approaches. For Christmas flights, you really should book before Thanksgiving, but the best deals are now through Halloween.”

Alaska Airlines flight arrives at Los Angeles International Airport on October 2.  How you get your ticket purchase time can depend on many personal factors in addition to airline prices.

Alaska Airlines flight arrives at Los Angeles International Airport on October 2. How you get your ticket purchase time can depend on many personal factors in addition to airline prices.

AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images

automobile and travel club AAA There was different pricing data for Thanksgiving airfares.

Based on 2019, 2021 and 2022 booking data so far, AAA found the lowest average prices just seven to 14 days before Thanksgiving and the highest prices 28 to 60 days before the holiday. But the data also showed that prices had increased in the last seven days before the holiday.

So should you wait? It all comes down to personal circumstances, such as your budget and how flexible you are with your flight plans, AAA told CNN Travel. If you don’t have a lot of wiggle room, waiting for a chance at a lower rate may not be worth the risk.

“Airlines have fewer flights than in 2019, which means fewer choices for consumers,” said Paula Twidale, AAA’s senior vice president of travel. “When staff shortages and capacity are at their peak, you risk delays or even missed flights, especially if weather comes into the equation.”

What are the best days to fly for Thanksgiving?

Expedia shared some information on when to travel for Thanksgiving (Thursday, November 24):

The travel company suggested waiting until Monday, November 21, instead of Saturday, November 19 and Sunday, November 20, to save money.

Average ticket prices for Monday are 30% lower than on Saturday and around 15% cheaper than Wednesday, November 23rd.

As for returns, Expedia said Friday (November 25) is the cheapest date. Coming back on Monday 28 November instead of Sunday 27 November can save 5% to 10%.

Hopper also recommends flying Thanksgiving if possible and saving about $100 off the top prices. Also, planes should be less crowded.

Keyes said Thanksgiving weekend comes with a bonus. “Thanksgiving is the secret best week for international travel,” Keyes said.


Christmas and New Years are celebrated around the world and therefore come with global demand, but Thanksgiving is just a US holiday, he said. Domestic flights are expensive, but international flights are not.

“You find incredible deals all over Europe during Thanksgiving week.” In a price check this week, he said he found a ticket from New York City to Lisbon, Portugal at $429 round trip, cheaper than Cedar Rapids, Iowa ($567 round trip).

What are the best days to fly for Christmas?

Hopper gave advice on when to travel for Christmas (Sunday 25 December):

For departure, he said travelers can save $120 off the top fares by heading out on Monday, December 19, or Tuesday, December 20, before Christmas. Hopper estimates that leaving on Christmas Eve could save people about $100 this year. Avoid flying on Thursday, December 22 or Friday, December 23, as the site will be the most expensive travel days.

For refunds, the Tuesday (27 December) or Wednesday (28 December) after Christmas Day can save you $40 per ticket. Avoid coming back on Monday (December 26), New Year’s Day or January 2, which are the most expensive return dates.

More tips from the experts

Get your ducks in a row: “Prep is the best way to reduce stress when flying over Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Dengler says. Said. “Book a nonstop flight early in the morning if possible” on a lower volume travel day. He also recommended not checking a bag if possible.

Take care of yourselves: If you fly a few times a year or more and value a low level of stress, Keyes suggested getting a credit card with “challenging benefits.” This includes access to private airport lounges that take you away from the crowds and offer free food, drink and even massages.

Avoid rushing: If you’re driving, Twidale said hit the road early in the morning, before rush hour, or after 8 pm. If you’re flying but heading to the airport, book parking. He also suggested signing up for TSA Preflight to bypass the long security lines.

Hotels: Berg said that if you’re heading to a big city (think New York, Chicago, etc.), you’ll get a better deal if you wait until a few days before your arrival date to book the room. Warnings: This is for people who are not dead in a particular hotel or particular neighborhood. And for smaller cities, he said, people should book earlier as options are limited.

Top image: United Airlines ticket office at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on Christmas Eve 2021. (Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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