When to Buy Holiday Airline Tickets to Save the Most Money

SEPTEMBER 08, 2016
Candyce H. Stapen

Even though we’re barely beyond Labor Day, Hipmunk suggests we start thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas if we want to spend less money on airfare. To save the most on flights to see friends and relatives who live in the top 20 largest markets, the travel booking site recommends we purchase airline tickets six weeks in advance.

That means booking seats the week of October 3rd for Thanksgiving and the week of November 7th for Christmas. Do that and the average savings travelers pocket is 14% on airfare, but for some destinations passengers can save as much as 50%.

To grab savings in smaller markets, Hipmunk targets different dates. For turkey day, book now—the week of September 5--, or wait until November 14.  For Santa celebrations, we can stuff our Christmas stockings with savings by reserving airline tickets the week of October 12 or, for those who can wait it out, December 12.

Remember, that savings on holiday airfare, while significant, aren’t the only factors to consider. A booking close to the holidays may save dollars, but may also add difficulty. Cheaper fares may require boarding a midnight flight, making one or more stops en route and enduring long lay-overs. So before taking up Hipmunk’s suggestion of purchasing airfare close to the holidays, ponder the possible inconveniences. 

In the top 20 markets for Thanksgiving, Hipmunk analyzed the ticket prices within the U.S. for departures between November 23 to 26, 2015 and returns between November 27 to 29, 2015. For Christmas prices for flights within the U.S. for the same top 20 markets, Hipmunk analyzed departures between December 21 to 25, 2015 and returns between December 26 to 27, 2015.
Hipmunk’s Top 10 Markets’ Median Ticket Prices and Savings for the Holidays 
Median price of Thanksgiving tickets booked the week of October 3:
Orlando (MCO), $413, save 28%
Newark (EWR), $331, save 43%
New York City (JFK), $456, save 36%
Chicago, $376 (ORD), save 10%
Phoenix (PHX), $464, save 26%
Seattle (SEA), $377, save 37%
San Francisco (SFO), $443, save 10%
Las Vegas (LAS), $355, save 12%
Philadelphia (PHL), $385, save 12%
Denver (DEN), $341, save 18%
Median price of Christmas tickets booked the week of November 7:
Orlando (MCO), $208, save 52%
Newark (EWR), $360, save 47%
New York City (JFK), $527, save 23%
Chicago (ORD), $430 save 10%
Phoenix (PHX), $297, save 51 %
Seattle (SEA), $458, save 23%
San Francisco (SFO), $306, save 46%
Las Vegas (LAS), $298, save 25%
Philadelphia (PHL), $355 save 45%
Denver (DEN), $298, save 21%
Related: Hipmunk’s survey, Valentine’s Day: Which Cities Hike Prices the Most? 

Related: 8 Great Travel Deals for Fall  

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