How to Find Holiday Flight Deals Even as Ticket Prices Spike

·3 min read
Vanessa Garcia / Money; Getty Images
Vanessa Garcia / Money; Getty Images

Planning to go home for the holidays? That might be more expensive than usual this year as airfare climbs sky-high.

A forecast released this week by travel booking app Hopper estimates prices for plane tickets are likely to reach their highest point in five years around Christmas and Thanksgiving thanks to variables like fuel costs, increased demand and reduced airline capacity.

Travelers hoping to book flights for Thanksgiving can anticipate an average domestic ticket price of $350. Prices are up 43% from last year. Late-November international flights, meanwhile, are increasing 41% from 2021, averaging close to $800 a ticket.

For Christmas, it’s beginning to look a lot like a splurge. According to current estimates, travelers can expect to splash out an average of $463 for domestic tickets — ticket prices are 39% higher than last year. International airfare will cost consumers a whopping $1,300 per ticket.

How to find flight deals for the holidays

After a rough couple years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, travel is finally bouncing back in a major way.

Holiday flight prices are currently down from their peaks in August, which is typical as summer travel demand winds down. It’s normal for ticket costs to increase during vacation season and holiday demand, but a sharper-than-usual seasonal decline from this summer’s airline chaos means right now is the best time to book.

“Over 50% of Americans told us they plan to travel this holiday season, and 70% said they plan to see friends and family,” says Andrew Heritage, a senior economist at Hopper. “People feel comfortable going places again. So there is extremely high demand for travel, similar to what we saw over the summer.”

But don’t expect to find fares for dirt-cheap prices, either. Heritage says airfares are still historically high due to the same staffing and capacity issues airlines have struggled with all year, not to mention the cost of jet fuel.

Hopper advises monitoring travel prices between now and Oct. 20, when pre-holiday price spikes usually strike. Travel advice site The Vacationer also recommends booking as early as possible when it comes to major holidays — even months in advance, if possible, depending on where you’re going.

“International flights tend to be cheaper closer to the opening of the booking window. Domestic flights are more expensive when released and tend to drop in price after a few months,” The Vacationer said in its Thanksgiving and Christmas 2022 travel guide. “For that reason, you should aim to book international flights earlier than domestic, and that is especially true for the holidays.”

Hopper says travelers often use the shorter Thanksgiving work week to take a longer international trip. Flying out the day before Thanksgiving — which this year falls on Nov. 24 — can save you an average of $100 on peak airfare. Return flights are, on average, $162 cheaper if you come back the following Monday rather than right after the holiday.

The most expensive days to fly fall are from Dec. 22-24, with prices averaging over $500 per domestic ticket. If you’re looking to save money, Hopper’s data suggests you try departing the Monday before Christmas (Dec. 19). Flights are generally about $120 less costly that day.

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