When to Book Budget Holiday Flights (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year)

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The holiday season is approaching faster than you can pack away your summer gear. You might feel pressure to arrange flights when you hear other people planning their trips to visit family and friends. However, booking flights at this time can be expensive and stressful. To help you stay on budget and avoid the hassle, I’ve compiled a list of the best times to book holiday flights for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year.

Note: the suggested dates are based on data for 2023 from Skyscanner, Google Flights and reputable online sources which are linked. You should book at the best time that suits you as prices of flights can rise and fall on a day to day basis.

Use Skyscanner to start your Holiday Flight price comparison now.

Thanksgiving Flights

People are already booking their Thanksgiving flights and the sense of urgency could leave you overcharged and out of pocket. However, the longer you leave it, the fewer the seats available… According to the Thrifty Traveler, based on research conducted by Google Flights, the best time to book Thanksgiving flights is four weeks before the holiday, on the week of October 31, with prices averaging about 7.7 percent cheaper.

There can also be a benefit to booking last minute (if you can bear the tension and the risk!). Prices can be around 2% lower on Thanksgiving week. If you are serious about the best budget deals for cheap Thanksgiving flights, you should be looking between mid-September and mid-October. Google’s research shows that in 2023, deals are most likely between 54 and 78 days before you want to fly (source: NewsNation).

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Christmas Flights

The best time to buy Christmas flights is around 5 weeks ahead of time (for US readers, that’s Thanksgiving week), with typical deals of around 6.41%. The second best time appears to be the week of December 5, which is three weeks before Christmas, with savings at around 5%. According to Google Flights and the Washington Post, those people not willing to risk a late booking should book during October. For example, if you want to fly the Friday before Christmas (22 December), the weekend of 13-15 October should have the lowest airfare. October 15th is supposed to be the best booking day for those flying right up to Christmas Day. And if you wanted to travel in mid-December, the best deals happen in early October.

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New Year’s Flights

If you want flights for New Year’s celebrations, then booking in the first week of December (5 December) could save you over 10%. There is a risk to buying this late as flight prices can fluctuate day by day and hour by hour. If you’re on the more risk-averse side, you’ll find the typical low prices for New Year become available during the first week of October right until the end of October. (Side note: buying flights for later in 2024 is cheapest if you buy around New Year’s Eve/Day).

Tips to Save on Holiday Flights

  • Set a Skyscanner AND a Google Flights Price Alert for your travel plans – and do it right now – so you get an alert when prices drop or increase.
  • Be as flexible as you can with your travel dates. Shifting your travel dates can save on airfare.
  • If you’re flying long haul, consider booking on an international budget airline, which can offer significant savings over legacy carriers, even if this means a layover and extra fees for baggage and meals. Remember to do like for like comparison.
  • Be willing to accept the cheapest travel days. Fly when no one else wants to.

By following these tips and booking your holiday flights at the right time, you can save money and avoid the stress of last-minute bookings. If you’re serious about getting the best price, I’m serious about this: remember to set a price alert and be flexible with your travel dates to get the best deals.

If you’re interested in reading more about using Google Flight Alerts, then you’ll enjoy this advice from Google Flights

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