Flying to see family for the end-of-year holidays? I am, which is why I've already started tracking Thanksgiving and Christmas fares. But don't fret: I'm also researching dozens of other routes as well.
Let the Benchmarking Begin
We've been benchmarking Thanksgiving and Christmas fares, and the good news is they're currently dipping. But is booking now a good idea, or are you in danger of paying the dreaded early-bird premium by booking too far in advance? Month-over-month savings are averaging about 6 percent, but fares seem poised to plunge more, since the vast majority of routes I've been tracking are still showing drops in price.
Here's a small sampling of the flight routes we've been tracking since August:
- Chicago < -- > Los Angeles: decreased by 17 percent
- Denver < -- > Salt Lake City: decreased by two-tenths of a percent
- Las Vegas < -- > Detroit: decreased by 5 percent
- Minneapolis < -- > Phoenix: increased by 3 percent
- New York City < -- > Atlanta: decreased by 6 percent
- Orlando < -- > Boston: decreased by 22 percent
Play the Waiting Game?
So, should you gamble and wait? My research proves that you're golden if you hold off for now on holiday bookings. Prices are still dropping, and the airlines have yet to begin pitching their holiday sales.
You may not want to wait too long, however. As SmarterTravel's Sarah Pascarella suggests based on previous years' trends, it's a good idea to start tracking rates as of September, and begin to consider booking holiday flights in October. You can stay up on airfare price drops by enrolling in fare alerts such as our Deal Alert newsletter, which notifies you of daily deals and news.
Holiday Booking Strategies
Here are more tips for nailing down some solid savings for your holiday fare:
- Begin benchmarking fares as early as possible so you'll know a good price when you see it.
- Steer clear of peak travel days such as the day before Thanksgiving and the last day of the holiday's weekend. And for Christmas, it'll be wise to avoid high-priced flights two days prior and post Santa's visit.
- Be in the know when sales come out: The sale match generally gets lit by one of the low-cost carriers on Tuesday, and by the following morning, competitors have jumped into the fray and created what we call a full-out fare war.
- Check fares from nearby airports.
We'll keep you up to date on holiday airfare fluctuations in the subsequent installments of this monthly blog. Have you already booked your holiday flights? Are you expecting to pay much more than last year's home voyage?