Book your Christmas flight before your Thanksgiving flight - Hopper Research

Book your Christmas flight before your Thanksgiving flight

Patrick
By Patrick Surry
Posted Oct 5, 2016

Updated on 10/24/16

Summary

  • Although Thanksgiving travel is expensive, prices won't vary much during the month of October. Just make sure you book your Thanksgiving flights before Halloween.
  • Domestic Thanksgiving flights are currently $312 round-trip, compared to $340 last year. If you wait to book your flight until after Halloween, it will cost you about $1.50 per day you wait, and then prices start rising about $6 per day in the last ten days before departure.
  • Unlike Thanksgiving prices, holiday flight prices tend to rise more steadily as Christmas approaches, and then spike in the last ten days.
  • Based on Hopper's historical data, on average the best time to book Christmas flights is about 80 days before departure so book now if you haven't booked yet.
  • Domestic Christmas flights are currently $338 round-trip, compared to $347 last year. For every day closer to Christmas, average round-trip holiday airfare goes up about $1.50.


Thanksgiving - When To Fly and Buy

Thanksgiving travel is expensive, but you won't pay much more if you wait to buy this month. Prices for Thanksgiving travel start high because the airlines know travelers have little flexibility in terms of destinations and dates. Domestic flight prices are currently averaging about $312 round-trip for Thanksgiving. Premium flights (a direct flight that's not a basic fare) will cost you about 8% more. The good news is flight prices are down 8.1% compared to last year.

Thanksgiving airfare tends to be very stable during the month of October so prices won't vary much, but make sure you book before Halloween. The Hopper app can monitor rices for you and alert you exactly when you should book. If you wait to book your flight until after Halloween, it will cost you about $1.50 per day you wait, and then prices start rising about $6 per day in the last ten days before departure.

If you want to score a bargain, traveling on Thanksgiving day is the cheapest option. The next best option is to depart on Monday, Nov. 21st and returning Friday, Nov. 25th. You'll save about 20% over the most popular dates.


Figure 1: When to Buy Thanksgiving Flights based on 2015 and 2016 data


Figure 2: Premium flights (nonstop, excluding basic fares) trend higher than the lowest available fare in markets where both are available (which tend to be cheaper than markets without nonstops), and ramp up more steeply as departure approaches.

Figure 3: Average prices of Thanksgiving trips based on travel days.


Christmas - When To Fly and Buy

The airlines can charge a big premium for holiday flights because it's the busiest travel period of the year. Flights around the winter holidays can be priced as much as 75% more than non-holiday flights. The typical domestic round-trip over the winter holiday period is currently priced at $338 compared to $347 last year at the same time. This year prices have been tracking about 4.3% below last year.

Unlike Thanksgiving prices, holiday flight prices tend to rise more steadily as Christmas approaches, and then spike in the last ten days. Based on Hopper's historical data, on average the best time to book is about 80 days before departure, but if you missed it then you'll want to book ASAP.

For every day closer to Christmas, average round-trip holiday airfare goes up about $1.50. But prices move around constantly so you should set up a trip watch in the Hopper app so Hopper can monitor prices 24/7 and alert you when there's a deal.

You'll save the most money if you're flexible and able to fly on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or New Year's Eve. The next best option is to Tuesday, December 20, and return Thursday, January 5.


Figure 4: When to Buy Christmas Flights based on 2015 and 2016 data


Figure 5: Average travel prices for flights departing (blue) and returning (green) throughout the winter holidays.


Methodology

The Hopper app predicts future flight prices with 95% accuracy, up to six months in advance of departure. Hopper collects several billion airfare price quotes every day, and has built a historical archive of several trillion prices over the past several years. By combining current prices with historical trends, Hopper can predict how prices are likely to change in the future.