Halloween is almost here which means it's only a few more weeks to Thanksgiving with Christmas just around the corner. Much of the U.S. lives miles away from family, instigating high levels of holiday traffic, crowds, and escalated prices across the board. However, sources report that airfare is down 9% this year causing more people to fly rather than road trip it to grandma's house. There's a caveat though as airlines are notorious for emptying your pocketbook and your sanity.
There are good days and bad days to fly; that's a given. For Thanksgiving, the busiest days are the Wednesday and Sunday before and after the holiday (Nov. 25, 29). The best days, with the fewest crowds and lowest prices, are estimated to be Nov. 30 or on Thanksgiving Day itself. Both Christmas and New Year's are on Wednesdays so try and avoid weekends as both crowds and prices will be up. Avoid Dec. 23 when traveling for Christmas and instead try Christmas Eve or Day or wait till the 27th. New Year's will find Dec. 30 the busiest while New Year's Eve and Day will be the slowest and cheapest.
Here's a helpful tip: you'll find the best air deals for flights traveling in the early morning (5-7 am) and after 8 pm. Early morning flights will most likely be on time but the airports, however, probably won't have a full staff of people working check-in, security, etc. so arrive earlier than you would normally to get through on time.
Travel experts and studies have shown that you should book your flights before Halloween. I know this doesn't leave you much time but alas, the longer you wait, the higher the prices will be. 21 days before your flight is the cut off when prices escalate dramatically reaching their highest point seven days before you fly. A lot of people shop around for too long, thinking they'll find a better deal but the longer you wait, the higher the prices are going to be all around. Still shop around, look to several travel sites or have a travel agency shop for you but don't wait too long!
Another helpful tip: Expedia says, based on a study, that Tuesdays are the best days to book flights as airlines release new fares early in the week.
Here are some more tips to help you on your traveling way:
- Leave early, don't just arrive early - traffic may be heavier than anticipated.
- Get nonstop flights when possible - if not possible, plot your connections carefully and leave room for delays.
- Know your airport - regional airports may be cheaper but they have fewer planes and a smaller crew/staff
- Check TSA guidelines before you pack
- Make sure your carry on fits the airline's regulatory dimensions
- Travel early or late in the day - if you're driving, drive at night when traffic is lowest
- Gas up your car the night before so you don't have to stop
- Don't wrap gifts as TSA will probably unwrap them for security checks
But...there is an alternative. Maybe you've already thought about it but you can skip out on the family holiday this year and go somewhere else. New Year's rates in Chicago are at an all time low with airfare down 10% and hotels down 9%. Likewise Texas airfare has bottomed out at 11% lower than last year with hotels down 13% as well. Imagine having your holiday at a Colorado ski resort! Denver air is down 7%, hotels are...wait for it...down 17% from last year's prices. Even New York City, a wonderland during the holidays, is offering lower prices than usual. If you aren't into the U.S. during the holidays, cruises to the Caribbean or even international flights are showing low price deals.
If you're not planning on having the holidays at home, go somewhere unexpected. There are many affordable options that drop prices during the holiday season just for people like you. Or you can have your whole family meet up for a destination holiday instead. But the rule stands - don't procrastinate!
The holidays are a notoriously stressful time to travel but it doesn't have to be, especially if you know before you go. Read up on the best times to travel and travel tips from blogs like ours or talk to our travel agents who can give you advice and even plan your trip out for you with no hassle.