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AAA: Now good time to plan for winter holiday travel
AAA travel

The much-anticipated Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays may still be months away, but the best time to book flights for these busy travel weeks is quickly approaching. In fact, a recent analysis of AAA Travel’s flight booking data from the last three years reveals that Sept. 25 marks the start of the best booking window for air travel around both the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

“Holiday travelers should make their plans now and begin booking their flights for Thanksgiving and Christmas as early as Wednesday, Sept. 25 for the best deals and availability,” said Paula Twidale, vice president, AAA Travel. “Procrastinating travelers may be able to find last-minute deals on flights close to the holidays, as airlines look to fill their last few remaining seats, but flight availability for these peak travel weeks will be very limited by that time.”

The Monday before Thanksgiving (November 25, 2019) historically has the lowest average ticket price, $486, and is typically a lighter air travel day, making this the best option for travelers to arrive at their destinations well in advance of the holiday.

The Sunday prior to the holiday has the highest average price per ticket ($564), but it is consistently the lightest travel day.

Tuesday ($521) and Wednesday ($527) are pricey and the heaviest air travel days.

Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, has the lowest average price per ticket ($454).

Most travelers book 28-60 days prior to Thanksgiving (between September 25 and October 27). They can expect to pay an average ticket price of $491 roundtrip.

Travelers who book between 61 and 180 days prior to Thanksgiving— May 28 through September 24, 2019—have a better chance of securing their preferred travel dates, and will therefore pay slightly more (around $522).

Procrastinating travelers can find some of the best pricing ($482 on average) 7-13 days before the holiday, November 11-17 this year. However, limited availability could affect the preferred days a traveler might want.

Travelers typically depart 2-4 days prior to the holiday. These travelers, on average, pay ticket prices of $593 on December 21, $639 on December 22, and $603 on December 23.

Christmas Eve is the best day to travel. It consistently has the lowest average price per ticket ($527) and is the lightest travel day of the week.

December 26 has the highest average ticket price of the week at $692.

December 22 is the busiest air travel day around Christmas, and those travelers pay the second- highest average ticket price of the week, $639.

Most travelers book between 28 and 60 days prior to Christmas — between October 26 and November 27 — and still get a relatively good price ($561 on average).

Travelers booking between 121 days (August 26) and one year prior to the holiday can ensure their tickets, but will pay more (between $616 and $659 on average).

Best bookings can be found 61-90 days prior to the holiday (between September 26 and October 25), which seems to be the ‘sweet spot’ with prices lower on average ($551) than further advanced bookings.

Last-minute travelers get the overall best pricing ($488 on average) at 7-13 days, but availability is likely limited.

“Last year, AAA projected that 54.3 million Americans would travel over the Thanksgiving holiday and a record-breaking 112.5 million during the longer year-end holiday season,” continued Twidale. “If those trends hold again this year, travelers are in for crowded airports and, possibly, longer wait times. Pack your patience and plan ahead, giving yourself plenty of time at the airport to maintain that holiday cheer.”

When it comes to getting the best value for your travel this holiday season, AAA recommends:

Start researching holiday travel options now and book flights by Oct. 27.

Consult a knowledgeable travel agent; they can take the guesswork out of researching and evaluating the many available options, saving time, the hassle and the headache.

Consider purchasing travel insurance for your flight to protect your trip from life’s unexpected surprises that can throw a wrench in your plans.

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