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AAA: Make Your List, Check it Twice – October is the Best Time to Book Holiday Flights

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


PHILADELPHIA, PA (October 8, 2019) – 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:


  • 52 days until Thanksgiving – the best time to book Thanksgiving air travel is one to two months prior (September 25-October 27)
  • 79 days until Christmas – the best time to book Christmas air travel is two to three months Prior (October 26-November 27)
  • October is when most travelers book Thanksgiving air travel and the best time to book cheapest Christmas air travel.
  • Those booking Thanksgiving and Christmas air travel now will typically pay less than if they booked it earlier (this summer).
  • 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.

“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 4.3 million Americans, including 58,000 Philadelphia-area residents, took to the skies for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, a 5.5 percent increase over 2017, according to AAA. 

Best Days to Travel:

  • The Monday before Thanksgiving historically has the lowest average ticket price, $486, 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 $454.
  • The Tuesday and Wednesday preceding Thanksgiving are the most popular travel days, and travelers will pay the highest average price per ticket, $521 and $527 respectively.

Most Popular Times to Book and Pricing:

  • Most travelers book one to two months prior to Thanksgiving (between September 25 and October 27).
  • Booking holiday travel in advance has its pros and cons. Travelers who booked flights over the summer (between May 28 and September 24) 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 11 through 17), 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, 6.7 million Americans flew to their holiday destination.

Best Days to Travel:

  • December 22 is the busiest air travel day around Christmas, and those travelers pay the second-highest average ticket price of the week, $639.
  • People who fly on Christmas Eve consistently pay the lowest price per ticket, $527 on average. Few choose to do so, however, as this is the lightest travel day around the Christmas holiday.
  • December 26 has the highest average ticket price of the week at $692.

Most Popular Times to Book and Pricing:

  • Most travelers book one to two months prior to Christmas and pay an average airfare of $616 roundtrip.
  • However, the best time to book Christmas air travel is two to three months before Christmas (October 26 through November 27) this year. Travelers who book within that window, pay an average ticket price of $561 (saving an average of $100 per ticket than advance bookers).
  • 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 will pay the lowest average airfares, at $488. However, those travelers risk encountering limited availability and their preferred flights may already be sold out. 

“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,” noted Calvert. “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.

For more information, visit


AAA analyzed its member flight booking data for travel within the continental United States, from 2016-2018 to determine the best and most popular times to book air travel for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, as well as the prices travelers pay during various advance booking windows. An unweighted, three-year average ticket price was used for this analysis. Since Thanksgiving always falls on a Thursday, the full week of Thanksgiving (Sunday through Saturday) was analyzed. For the Christmas holiday, Dec. 19-26 was analyzed, regardless of what day of the week Christmas fell on that year.


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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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