When Is the Absolute Best Time to Buy Holiday Airfares?


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As travelers start thinking about their holiday travel plans, online travel agency Hipmunk has come out with its predictions on the best times to buy those flights. After analyzing historical data, Hipmunk found that it's best to book your Thanksgiving flights about two weeks prior to Christmas flights this year.

The ideal time to purchase your Thanksgiving airfare in 2018 is the week of October 1, and the best time to book your Christmas travel is the week of October 15. According to the data, by booking your flights by these deadlines, you could save up to 23 percent and 25 percent, respectively, on your holiday airfares.

To arrive at these timelines, Hipmunk analyzed last year's median round-trip booking prices for U.S. flights departing between November 20 and November 23 and returning between November 24 and November 27. The same method was used for Christmas, analyzing last year's median prices of flights leaving between December 21 and December 25 and returning on December 26 through December 28.

Beyond the date you should secure your airfare, Hipmunk also released other sets of data that could help you save money this upcoming holiday season.

Fly on the Right Day

You now know the best day to book your flights to score a great deal, but choosing the day you fly is also a factor. According to the data, if you can make it work, the cheapest day to fly is on the holidays.

The most popular day of travel during Thanksgiving season is Wednesday, as is usually the case, so if you're able to board your flight on Turkey Day instead, you can save up to 21 percent off the peak booking price.

As for Christmas, it falls on a Tuesday this year, so the most popular day to fly this year will be Friday, December 21. By opting for the 25th instead, you could save up to 20 percent.

Don't Miss a Deal

Since prices can fluctuate by the day—even by the hour—the best way to lock in a great fare is to set alerts that will notify you when the price for a particular flight have changed or dropped. According to Hipmunk's data, travelers who had set fare alerts saved 6 percent on Thanksgiving flights and 7 percent on Christmas flights. Many booking sites, including Hipmunk, have this option, so be sure to take advantage of it!

Consider Alternative Airports

Heading to San Francisco? Look at flights into Oakland (OAK) instead. Traveling to Washington, D.C.? Baltimore (BWI) might be your best bet for your budget, rather than Reagan National Airport or Dulles International Airport.

Choosing alternative airports in major U.S. cities like these can hack off a portion of the ticket price. And Hipmunk's data backs that up—using this strategy can save you up to 14 percent on Thanksgiving weekend flights and 17 percent for Christmas travel. You can also save yourself the time of searching routes individually by entering multiple airport codes into the same search, which will provide you with more options.

Book Basic Economy

You're probably familiar with the term "basic economy," which is typically an airline's most budget-friendly, no-frills fare. You might have to sacrifice seat selection or baggage preferences, but the lower fare might be worth it—according to Hipmunk, choosing this fare option can save you 13 percent on Thanksgiving travel and 14 percent on Christmas flights.

Basic economy doesn't have to be so basic—pack light, bring your own snacks and a refillable water bottle, and rest east on your flight knowing that you saved major cash.

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