(CNN) – High prices, canceled flights, reserved accommodation and car rentals. The summer of travel clutter still looks rather hot and fresh.
But it’s time to look ahead, because another tough time looms less than two months away: the 2022 winter holiday travel season.
So put your shirts away, unpack your jackets and get ready for the winter holidays. Here’s what you need to know:
When should I buy tickets for winter holidays flights?
Deciding when to buy airline tickets seems more complicated than ever. Prices change daily, even hourly. The fallout from this pandemic in terms of staffing and capabilities is still being felt.
But October is perhaps the best window of opportunity. In other words, now.
“For the holidays in particular, this is a real problem because now is actually the best time to book a Thanksgiving and Christmas cruise,” Berg said.
Hopper suggested in an email to wait no later than mid-October.
It’s not just a pricing issue, Berg said. She also pointed to another danger by waiting: “Trips may be sold out entirely on the dates you want to travel.”
Worst time to book? “the last moment”
“The second best time to book your flights is now – because the worst time to book is to wait until the last minute,” Keys said. “If you haven’t already booked these flights and are really hoping to travel over the winter break, try to book them for the next week or two.”
Keys thinks airfares are likely to get more expensive, not less, as we approach Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“I consider Halloween as the deadline for a reasonable price for a Thanksgiving trip, but I aim to book before that time,” Dingler said in an email interview. “After Halloween, prices are going to skyrocket as Thanksgiving approaches. For Christmas cruises you should really book before Thanksgiving, but the best deals are between now and Halloween.”
An Alaska Airlines flight arrives at Los Angeles International Airport on October 2. How you decide when to buy a ticket depends on a lot of personal factors as well as airline prices.
Aaron B/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images
Based on booking data from 2019, 2021 and 2022 to date, AAA found the lowest average prices just seven to 14 days before Thanksgiving, with the highest prices 28 to 60 days before the holiday. However, the data also showed price increases in the past seven days before the holiday.
So do you have to wait? AAA told CNN Travel that a lot depends on personal circumstances such as your budget and how flexible you are with your flight plans. If you don’t have much wiggle room, it may not be worth the risk waiting for an opportunity at a lower price.
“Airlines have fewer flights than they did in 2019, which means fewer choices for consumers,” said AAA’s Paula Tweedall, senior vice president of travel. “With understaffing and capacity peaking, you risk delays or even missing flights, especially if weather plays into the equation.”
What are the best days to travel for Thanksgiving?
Expedia shared some thoughts on when to travel for Thanksgiving (Thursday, November 24):
To save money, the travel company suggested waiting until Monday (November 21) for departure instead of Saturday (November 19) and Sunday (November 20), “because the weekend is the most expensive time to start a Thanksgiving week trip.”
It added that average ticket prices for Monday are more than 30% lower than Saturday and about 15% lower than Wednesday (November 23).
As for returns, Expedia said Friday (November 25) is the cheapest date. Returning on Monday (November 28) instead of Sunday (November 27) can save 5% to 10%.
Hopper also suggests flying on Thanksgiving if you can, saving about $100 off peak fares. Plus planes should be less crowded.
Keyes said Thanksgiving weekend comes with a bonus. “Thanksgiving is the best hidden week for international travel,” Keyes said.
why is that?
He said that Christmas and New Year are celebrated all over the world and thus come with global demand, but Thanksgiving is just a holiday in the United States. Domestic flights are expensive, but not international flights.
“You find some amazing deals all over Europe during Thanksgiving week.” He said that when checking one of the fares this week, he found a cheaper fare from New York City to Lisbon, Portugal ($429 round trip, than Cedar Rapids, Iowa ($567) round trip).
What are the best days to travel for Christmas?
Hopper received tips on when to travel for Christmas (Sunday, December 25):
As for departures, she said travelers can save $120 off peak fares by departing on Monday (December 19) or Tuesday (December 20) before Christmas. Hopper estimated that leaving on Christmas Eve could save about $100 this year. The site said avoid traveling on Thursday (December 22) or Friday (December 23), as these will be the most expensive days to travel.
For returns, the Tuesday (December 27) or Wednesday (December 28) after Christmas Day can save you $40 per ticket. She said avoid returning on Monday (December 26), New Year’s or January 2, the most expensive dates to return.
Some other tips from the experts
Get your ducks in a row: “Being prepared is the best way to reduce stress when traveling over Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Dingler said. “If possible, book a non-stop flight early in the morning” on a day of low-volume travel. He also advised not to check the bag if possible.
Reward yourself: If you travel a few times a year or more and appreciate a low stress level, Keys suggested getting a credit card that includes “disguised perks.” This includes access to private airport lounges that take you away from the crowds and provide free food, drinks and even massages.
Avoid rushing: If you’re driving, Twidale said, leave early in the morning before rush hour or after 8 p.m. If you need a rental car, book it early to lock in the price and pay in advance to save money. If you are traveling but driving to the airport, reserve a parking space. She also suggested enrolling in the TSA pre-screening to bypass the long safety lines.
Hotels: If you’re heading to a big city (think New York, Chicago, etc.), you’ll likely get a better deal if you wait until a few days before your arrival date to reserve the room, Berg said. Warnings: This is for people who did not die in a particular hotel or neighborhood. And for smaller towns, she said people should still book early because options are limited.
Top photo: United Airlines ticket office at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia on Christmas Eve 2021 (Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images)