With summer sunsets fading into the distance, it’s time to set our sights on the next big travel challenge—the holidays. What’s that, you say? Thanksgiving is months away? Booking holiday travel in advance is a necessity but don’t fear. Hipmunk has crunched the data and compiled our top holiday travel hacks to make flight booking as agony-free (and cost-effective) as possible.
Know When to Buy
If you’re the type that likes to book Thanksgiving and Christmas time travel all at once, think twice this year: the best week to book flights for Thanksgiving is two weeks prior to booking for the Christmas holidays.
This Thanksgiving, book the week of October 1 for a 23 percent savings off of peak booking price (average ticket price this week is $387). For the Christmastime holiday, the best week to buy is the week of October 15, when the average flight price of $357 can save 25 percent off peak booking price.
Fly on the Holiday
If you can swing it and still make holiday dinner, there are significant savings (and less congested airports!) to be had by traveling on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, especially when compared to the peak travel days.
Traveling on Thanksgiving day will save you 21 percent over the peak booking price. No surprise, the most expensive day to travel is Wednesday, Thanksgiving Eve.
Flying on Christmas Day will save you 20 percent off of peak travel prices. This year, Christmas falls on a Tuesday and the most expensive day to fly is the preceding Friday, December 21.
Not sure which date combination will get you the best deal? With Flex Dates, Hipmunk lets you search multiple departure and arrival days to maximize savings. Use the calendar in the search form to click on a date and drag your cursor over your date range, up to three days. Or, you can manually add + or – up to 2 days to each date in the search form. For example, “Nov 19 +2” will search November 19-21.
Set a Fare Alert
If you haven’t learned this trick yet, it’s time to try it out, especially if you’re flying into a smaller airport where prices fluctuate more frequently. Hipmunk data shows that Thanksgiving flyers that set a fare alert can save 6 percent on the average booking price for comparable routes. Similarly, travelers that set a fare alert saved an average of 7 percent off of Christmas flights.
Check out our handy video to show you how to set up a fare alert.
Fly into an Alternate Airport
If your travel plans are taking you to a large metro area, you likely have more than one airport to choose from. Booking a flight into an alternate airport can save travelers 14 percent on Thanksgiving weekend, and 17 percent off the week of Christmas. Include multiple airport codes when you search to easily compare all your price options in one results page.
Book a Vacation Rental
Holiday hotel prices can put a pretty big dent in your Christmas budget, but savvy travelers can often cut costs by booking a vacation rental, like an Airbnb, rather than a hotel. According to Hipmunk data, Thanksgiving travelers can save 10 percent on average by booking a vacation rental versus a hotel, and 7 percent on average during the week of Christmas.
Consider Basic Economy
No-frills flights and basic economy fares, offered by low-cost carriers and the majority of legacy carriers, are yet another cost-saving option for budget-conscious travelers. Basic economy typically limits upgrades, carry-ons, and seating selection, but can be a great option if you are heading to your holidays solo and you pack light. Basic economy will save you 13 percent on Thanksgiving flights this year, and 14 percent on flights for Christmas. Hipmunk’s new flight search design allows travelers to visually compare prices and in-flight amenities, like WiFi and luggage fees, by fare class so you can easily find your “right flight”. You didn’t want to try and jam all your presents into the overhead bin anyway, right?
Have fun hacking your holiday travel this year, and treat yourself to a holiday gift with your savings!
WTB Thanksgiving Methodology: Hipmunk analyzed the historical median round-trip booking prices by week for US flights departing Nov 20, 2017 – Nov 23, 2017, and returning Nov 24, 2017 – Nov 27, 2017.
WTB Christmas Methodology: Hipmunk analyzed the historical median round-trip booking prices by week for US flights departing Dec 21, 2017 – Dec 25, 2017, and returning Dec 26, 2017 – Dec 28, 2017.
Fare Alert Methodology: Hipmunk analyzed the historical median round-trip fare alert-triggered booking prices for US flights for Thanksgiving and Christmas (methodology above) and compared them to the median Thanksgiving and Christmas booking prices on the same route.
Alternate Airport Methodology: Hipmunk analyzed the historical median round-trip booking prices for US flights for Thanksgiving and Christmas (methodology above) in major metropolitan cities with multiple airports.
Vacation Rental Methodology: Hipmunk analyzed the historical booking prices for US hotels and vacation rentals with a check-in date of Nov 20, 2017 – Nov 23, 2017, and a check-out date of Nov 24, 2017 – Nov 27, 2017 for Thanksgiving and a check-in date of Dec 21, 2017 – Dec 25, 2017, and check-out date of Dec 26, 2017 – Dec 28, 2017 for Christmas.
Basic Economy Methodology: Hipmunk analyzed the historical median round-trip basic economy booking prices for US flights for Thanksgiving and Christmas (methodology above) and compared them to the median economy Thanksgiving and Christmas booking prices on the same route.