“The best time to plant the tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time to do so is now.”
That old adage can certainly be applied to last-minute holiday travel. If you haven’t booked your flights yet, don’t panic. There’s still time. As long as you stop doing these three things, you’ll find flights for your Thanksgiving and Christmas destinations in time and at a fair price.
Cheap Last-Minute Holiday Travel Is Available If You Stop Doing These No-no’s
Many travel experts agree: The sweet spot to book holiday travel is generally in the summer, suggesting September as the latest month you should book. However, if you’ve already missed the booking window for the cheapest holiday travel, there are still several ways to secure flights for your holiday travel.
Don’t Keep Postponing
CheapAir.com’s Holiday Cheap Flights Report for 2018’s tracks thousands of holiday fares daily and its easy-to-digest charts show that fares have steadily climbed since late September, and are expected to take a bigger leap in November. Holiday flights booked in October averaged $37 more than in September, yet $70 cheaper than the expected average rates for November. Book as soon as possible to avoid the price gouge.
Don’t Blindly Book a Flight
To get a sense of the going rate for your specific itinerary, sign up for free airfare alerts like SmarterTravel‘s or our sister site, Airfarewatchdog‘s. It’s important to remain realistic about what you expect to pay for a last-minute holiday flight. It will most definitely be higher than a regular trip back home. Additionally, and most importantly, be ready to pounce on the booking immediately if you do see a good price.
Don’t Travel on These Days
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after are the busiest travel days of the year. Whether by land or by air, travel on these days and you’ll be sure to experience airports and roads at max capacity.
According to CheapAir.com, you can net cheap Thanksgiving flights by delaying your return trip home: Nearly $100 if traveling the Monday after the holiday and $209 in savings if flying on Tuesday.
Extending or shortening your holiday vacation is a sound strategy for better savings, so keep that in mind when looking at your holiday schedule. Because Christmas falls on a Tuesday this year, expect the highest fares the weekend before the holiday on Friday, December 21 and Saturday, December 22. Other high-demand days to avoid are just after the holiday on December 26, and after a New Year’s on January 1 and 2.
It might be counterintuitive, but traveling on the day of the actual holiday is one of the best ways to find the most affordable flights during the holiday season. If you’re okay with flying on Christmas Day, it could be the best way to save. December 18, December 31, and January 3 are also among the cheapest travel days this year.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 7 Ways to Save on Holiday Travel
- How to Avoid Scams When Booking Holiday Travel This Year
- How to Avoid the 4 Worst Parts of Holiday Flights
Senior Editor Patricia Magaña writes about travel. Follow her on Instagram.