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TOWSON, MD (October 11, 2018) - During the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday periods, millions of Americans will fly to their holiday destinations. The first two weeks of October are typically the best times to book a flight for Thanksgiving at bargain basement air fares and to save hundreds of dollars, according to conventional wisdom and the travel experts at AAA. If you are planning to fly to your holiday destinations at Christmastime, you have until the end of October to book your Christmas flights and still save an average of $100 per ticket.
AAA Travel has identified the best time to lock in your seat at a fair price. “Demand for holiday flights and seats on airlines increase with each passing day, as do airline holiday fares,” said Jenna Pluckert, Travel Agent at AAA Mid-Atlantic. “A word to the wise, when you find a good fare, be ready to purchase it,” she added.
Last year, approximately four million travelers, which included about 79,000 Marylanders, took to the skies for the holiday period, an increase of five percent over Thanksgiving 2016, according to AAA’s forecast. A year ago, Thanksgiving travelers flying to their destinations paid the lowest average in five years for a round-trip flight for the top 40 domestic routes.
During last year’s Christmas/New Year’s holiday period, 6.4 million Americans, including approximately 126,000 Marylanders, 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 $165, a five-year low, according to the 2017 AAA Leisure Travel Index.
“The Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s holidays are the busiest long-distance travel periods of the year. Now is the optimal time to look for the best prices and flights around Thanksgiving Day and around Christmas Day. Once you find what you are looking for, book it without delay,” advised Pluckert. “Procrastinators, last-minute planners and those holiday travelers who habitually put things off are not out of time or out of options. With strategic planning, savvy travelers can still successfully find the cheapest airfares by booking their flights before the window of opportunity closes in the days ahead of Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Pluckert added.
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:
- The Monday before Thanksgiving is historically the least expensive day to fly of the week.
- Those booking Thanksgiving air travel now will typically pay less than if they booked it earlier.
- Christmas travelers can save an average of $100 per ticket by booking no earlier than the last week of September and before the end of October.
Thanksgiving Air Travel
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 cheapest 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.
- Booking holiday travel in advance has its pros and cons. Travelers who have already booked their flights this year 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, will find the cheapest airfares. However, travelers who book last minute may encounter limited flight availability.
Christmas Air Travel
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 - 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—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 Travel.AAA.com.
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AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to over 59 million members nationwide and more than 975,000 members in Maryland. 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 AAA.com.