Fall and winter holiday season is upon us. Here’s how to save.

Traveler's suitcases and a plane at an airport
Courtesy of Travelocity
Experts share the best time to book travel for the upcoming fall and winter holidays.

Based on the uptick in travel this summer, it’s safe to say that this holiday season is going to be a doozy, especially up in the skies. Many folks are considering holiday travel this year now that the world has mostly reopened and vaccines and boosters are readily available in the United States. With the increase in demand, it’s even more important to plan accordingly, making purchases based on the best days and times to buy flights for the holidays.

A great place to start is knowing what day is most affordable to book your flight. According to Expedia flight data for Thanksgiving 2022, travelers departing Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday instead of Wednesday the week of Thanksgiving can save an average of 5% on airfare. And for certain destinations, like Las Vegas, the savings are even bigger, up to 15% in some cases.

Laura Lindsay, Skyscanner’s trend and destination expert, agrees. Skyscanner’s data shows that this is a pattern even outside the holiday season. “Our analysis shows that flight prices go through a weekly cycle,” she says. “Typically, the lowest prices are made available earlier in the week, and the highest prices are offered later in the week.”

Getty Images/Jeremy Horner
More Videos From Sunset

Lindsay states that year-round, Tuesday is the best day to purchase your tickets. “It seems most airlines launch their discounts on Monday nights, so you can pick up the best prices on Tuesday mornings. Typically, you’ll save somewhere between 15% and 25% percent,” she says.

Because flight fares are based on supply and demand, the sooner you buy your tickets, the better. In typical years, four weeks in advance would be enough, but that may not suffice in 2022 given the demand trends from this summer. That means it’s time to start setting your alerts on sites like Skyscanner and begin searching for Thanksgiving, which is only about seven weeks out. There’s a bit more of a buffer for the December holidays, but don’t wait too long; the holidays always seem to sneak up on us, after all.

When it comes to the December holidays, Expedia flight data shows travelers can save an average of 15% by departing the first half of the week instead of Thursday or Friday before Christmas. Their experts cited that for some destinations, there can be a savings of up to 35%.

“For Thanksgiving, I’d try to book by the end of September, but Christmas is a bit trickier. Google did a huge analysis of five years of holiday flights and found that on average, flights for Thanksgiving and Christmas hit their lowest points at 52 and 22 days out,” says Chris Hutchins, financial optimizer and host of the All the Hacks podcast.

If waiting til December to buy tickets for Christmas travel seems a bit too risky, Hutchins offers a workaround. “I like to buy tickets in advance that can be cancelled for a refund or flight credit,” he continues. “That way if fares drop [around that 22 day marker] I can rebook at the lower cost.”

There are plenty of sites out there like Google Flights and Hopper that use their data to show you if they think now is a good time to buy, the latter of which will back up their “good time to buy” recommendations by giving you a refund of up to $50 if the fare drops in the next 10 days. 

Getty Images

“While the best airfare deals for holiday travel are typically found in September and October, there are still ways to find great deals for those that wait to book until the last minute.” says Lindsay. “Ticket prices will fluctuate leading up to the flight and airlines can add flights to match demand for busy routes. As they do this, prices will change.”

Hutchins adds that for those booking with miles, procrastination may pay off. “If you find yourself needing to make last-minute plans and you have a stash of airline miles, some of the best deals to be found are with your miles less than a week before departure,” he adds. “This is true even when the cash ticket prices have gotten crazy expensive.”

Another tip is getting creative with routes you track. “Using different outbound and return flights or nearby airports can reveal better deals for those that have flexibility,” says Lindsay.   

As is with everything in travel, creativity, preparedness, and patience always pay off.

Read the Current Issue Here!

Get one year of Sunset—and all kinds of bonuses—for just $24.95. Subscribe now!