AAA: Best Time to Buy Plane Tickets for Holidays Starts in Late September

The best time to buy flights for the holidays is coming up, according to AAA.

“The much-anticipated Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays may still be months away, but the best time to book flights for these busy travel weeks is quickly approaching,” AAA announced last week.

AAA looked over the past three years and they found that “Sept. 25 marks the start of the best booking window for air travel around both the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.”

Mark Jenkins, a spokesman for AAA and the Auto Club Group, weighed in on the report.

“Holiday travelers should make their plans now and begin booking flights for Thanksgiving and Christmas as early as Wednesday, Sept. 25 for the best deals and availability,” said Jenkins. “Knowing when to book and what days to fly can help travelers effectively manage their budget and avoid the crowd.”

AAA provided the following info for helping with travel plans over the holidays:

Thanksgiving Insights

When to Book

Best Bookings. Most travelers book between 28-60 days prior to Thanksgiving week and get a good price ($491  on average). For 2019,  that means booking between September 25 and October 27.

Best Price. Procrastinating travelers can find some of the best pricing ($482 on average) 7-13 days before the holiday, November 11-17 this year. However, limited availability could affect the preferred days a traveler might want.

Best Availability. Travelers who book between 61 and 180 days prior to Thanksgiving— May 28 through September 24, 2019—have a better chance of securing their preferred travel dates, and will therefore pay slightly more (around $522).

When to Fly

Flying on Monday is the best option for travelers to arrive at their destinations before Thanksgiving. It has the lowest average ticket price ($486) prior to the holiday, and is a lighter travel day than later in the week.

The Sunday prior to the holiday has the highest average price per ticket ($564), but it is consistently the lightest travel day.

Tuesday ($521) and Wednesday ($527) are pricey and the heaviest air travel days.

Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, has the lowest average price per ticket ($454).

Christmas Insights

While many travelers are focused on Thanksgiving, they would be wise to consider Christmas now as well.

When to Book

AAA found that 61 to 90 days prior to the holiday (between Sept. 26 and Oct. 25) is the sweet spot for Christmas flight bookings, with prices lower on average ($551) than more advanced bookings.

Most travelers book between 28 and 60 days before Christmas — between Oct. 26 and Nov. 27 — and still get a relatively good price ($561 on average).

Like Thanksgiving, last-minute Christmas travelers can find the overall best pricing ($488 on average) seven to 13 days before the holiday week, but flight availability is likely to be very limited by that time.

Travelers booking between 121 days (August 26) and one year prior to the holiday can ensure their tickets, but will pay more (between $616 and $659 on average).

When to Fly

AAA found that Christmas Eve is the best day to travel. It consistently has the lowest average price per ticket ($527) and is the lightest travel day of the week.

Regardless what day of the week Christmas falls on (a Wednesday this year), most travelers depart two to four days prior to the holiday. These travelers, on average, pay ticket prices of $593 to fly on Dec. 21, $639 on Dec. 22 (the busiest air travel day of Christmas week), and $603 on Dec. 23.

Travelers who fly after the Christmas holiday – leading up to New Year’s – pay a premium to do so. Dec. 26 has the highest average ticket price of the week at $692.

AAA Tips

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.

“Travelers should strongly consider purchasing travel insurance for their holiday trip,” said Jenkins. “Winter storms can cause unexpected flight delays and cancellations, even for those who are not flying north. This can lead to unexpected out-of-pocket expenses on food, transportation, and hotels. Having the right travel insurance policy means you can be reimbursed for all these expenses. The price for travel protection varies based on the cost of your trip, but the peace of mind that it buys is worth every penny.”


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