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Jana Tidwell
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AAA: The Best Time to Book Holiday Travel is OCTOBER 

AAA travel experts offer tips for best pricing and travel times for holiday travel. 

PHILADELPHIA, PA (October 18, 2018) – Wondering when to book holiday travel for the best pricing and ease of travel? To assist travelers, AAA Travel analyzed its last three years’ flight booking data.  Here are some key findings with details following:

  • 35 = number of days until Thanksgiving
  • 68 = number of days until Christmas
  • October = most travelers book Thanksgiving travel; best time to book cheapest Christmas air travel
  • Monday before Thanksgiving = least expensive day to fly of the week.
  • Those booking Thanksgiving air travel now will typically pay less than if they booked it earlier (this summer).
  • Christmas travelers can save an average of $100 per ticket by booking before the end of October.

“The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are the busiest long-distance travel periods of the year and now is the optimal time to look for the best flights and prices,” says Debby Calvert, Managing Director of Leisure Travel for AAA Mid-Atlantic.  “Demand for holiday flights and seats on airlines increase with each passing day.  A word to the wise, when you find a good fare, be ready to purchase it.”

Thanksgiving Air Travel

Last year, nearly 4 million Americans, including 53,000 Philadelphia-area residents, took to the skies for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, a 5.3 percent increase over 2016, according to AAA.  A year ago, Thanksgiving travelers flying to their destinations paid the lowest average ($157) in five years for a round-trip flight for the top 40 domestic routes.

Best Days to Travel:

  • The Monday before Thanksgiving historically has the lowest average ticket price, $465, and is typically a lighter air travel day, for travelers wanting to arrive in advance of the holiday.
  • Save more and miss the airport crowds by traveling on Thanksgiving Day. Fly the morning of the holiday and arrive just in time for Thanksgiving dinner for cheaper fares. The average per ticket booked has been $446.
  • The Tuesday and Wednesday preceding Thanksgiving are the most popular travel days, and travelers will pay the highest average price per ticket, $509 and $507 respectively.

Most Popular Times to Book and Pricing:

  • Most travelers book one to two months prior to Thanksgiving (between September 23 and October 25).
  • Booking holiday travel in advance has its pros and cons. Travelers who booked flights over the summer (between July 25 and September 22) likely paid a bit more, but they have the best chance of ensuring that their preferred flights are available, especially for the busy travel days around Thanksgiving.
  • Procrastinating travelers, those who book their flights just 7 to 13 days before Thanksgiving (November 9 through 15), will find the cheapest airfares. However, travelers who book last minute may encounter limited flight availability.

Christmas Air Travel

During last year’s Christmas/New Year’s holiday period, 6.4 million Americans, including approximately 83,000 Philadelphia-area residents, flew to their holiday destination. The average end of year holiday airfare for a round-trip flight for the top 40 domestic routes during 2017 was also at a five-year low ($165), according to the 2017 AAA Leisure Travel Index.

Best Days to Travel:

  • Regardless of what day of the week Christmas falls on, most travelers depart two or three days before the holiday.
  • People who fly on Christmas Eve consistently pay the lowest price per ticket, $512 on average. Few choose to do so, however, as this is the lightest travel day around the Christmas holiday.

Most Popular Times to Book and Pricing:

  • Most travelers book one to two months prior to Christmas and pay an average airfare of $561 roundtrip.
  • However, the best time to book Christmas air travel is two to three months before Christmas (September 23 through October 25) this year. Travelers who book within that window, pay an average ticket price of $551, up to $100 less on average than more advanced bookings.
  • Travelers who book their flights six months or more prior to Christmas can ensure the best flight availability, but they do so at a cost.
  • Last-minute planners – those who book 7 to 13 days prior to Christmas (December 12 to 18) – will pay the lowest average airfares, at $488. However, those travelers risk encountering limited availability and their preferred flights may already be sold out.

AAA travel agents know the tricks of travel planning to provide confidence in evaluating options and making final decisions, and are a security blanket should things go astray. Travelers who prefer to schedule travel online find useful tools at


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AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 57 million members nationwide and more than three million members in Pennsylvania.  AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years.  The not-for-profit, fully tax-paying member organization works on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android.  For more information, visit

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