Vacation Trip Planner: Tips On Best Times To Book Flights, Tickets, Hotels Before Thanksgiving, Christmas

High prices, canceled flights, reserved accommodations and rental cars. The summer of travel chaos still seems warm and cool somehow.

But it’s time to look ahead, because there’s another tipping point less than two months away: the 2022 winter holiday travel season.

So put away your t-shirts, get out your sweaters, and get ready for winter break. This is what you should know, according to CNN.

The video in the player above is from a related report.

When should I buy tickets for winter vacation flights?

Making decisions about when to buy airline tickets seems more complicated than ever. Prices change daily, even hourly. The staffing and capacity ramifications of the pandemic are still being felt.

October is probably the best window of opportunity. In other words, now.

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“Travelers often tend to start planning their vacation trips too late and miss out on some of the best prices available,” said Hayley Berg, chief economist at Hopper, the travel planning and booking app. And she told CNN Travel that she’s seeing people waiting later than ever to seal the deal during the uptick in the pandemic.

“For the holidays, in particular, that’s a real problem because now is the best time to book your Thanksgiving and Christmas trip,” Berg said.

Hopper suggested in an email to wait until mid-October at the latest.

It’s not just a price issue, Berg said. He also pointed out another risk of waiting: “Flights can be completely sold out on the dates you want to fly.”

The worst time to book? ‘The last minute’

Scott Keyes, the founder of flight deals and travel tips site Scott’s Cheap Flights, told CNN Travel that the best deals were actually last summer (remember that for 2023). But don’t get discouraged this year, he said.

“The second best time to book your flights is now, because the worst time to book them is waiting until the last minute,” Keyes said. “If you haven’t booked those flights yet and you’re really hoping to travel over the winter break, try to book it in the next week or two.”

Keyes thinks airfare is likely to get more expensive, not less, as we head into Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Phil Dengler, co-owner of travel resource The Vacationer, uses a popular fall holiday as a guide.

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“I see Halloween as the deadline to get a reasonable price on a Thanksgiving flight, but my goal is to book earlier,” Dengler said in an email interview. “After Halloween, prices will go up considerably as Thanksgiving approaches. For Christmas flights, you really should book before Thanksgiving, but the best deals are between now and Halloween.”

The AAA Auto and Travel Club had different price data for Thanksgiving airfares.

Based on booking data from 2019, 2021 and 2022 so far, AAA found the lowest average rates just seven to 14 days before Thanksgiving, with the highest prices 28 to 60 days before the holiday. . However, the data also showed that prices increased in the last seven days before the holidays.

So should you wait? A lot depends on personal circumstances, like your budget and how flexible you are with your flight plans, AAA told CNN Travel. If you don’t have a lot of wiggle room, it may not be worth the risk to wait for an opportunity to get a lower rate.

“Airlines have fewer flights than they did in 2019, which means fewer options for consumers,” said Paula Twidale, AAA’s senior vice president of travel. “With staffing shortages and capacity at their peak, you are at risk of delays or even missed flights, especially if weather factors into the equation.”

What are the best days to fly on Thanksgiving?

Expedia shared some ideas on when to travel for Thanksgiving (Thursday, November 24):

To save money, the travel company suggested waiting until Monday (November 21) to depart instead of Saturday (November 19) and Sunday (November 20), “since the weekend is the most expensive time to kick off your Thanksgiving week trip. “

Average ticket prices for Monday are more than 30% lower than those for Saturday and nearly 15% cheaper than Wednesday (Nov. 23), he said.

RELATED | American Airlines cuts 31,000 flights from its November schedule

As for returns, Expedia said that Friday (November 25) is the cheapest date. If you return on Monday (November 28) instead of Sunday (November 27) you could save between 5% and 10%.

Hopper also suggests flying on Thanksgiving if you can, offering savings of about $100 off low-season prices. Also, 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?

Christmas and New Year’s are celebrated all over the world and are therefore in global demand, but Thanksgiving is only a holiday in the United States, he said. Domestic flights are expensive, but not international ones.

“You find some amazing deals all over Europe during Thanksgiving week.” He said that in a price check this week, he found cheaper fares from New York City to Lisbon, Portugal ($429 roundtrip, than to Cedar Rapids, Iowa ($567 roundtrip).

What are the best days to fly at Christmas?

Hopper gave advice on when to travel on Christmas (Sunday, December 25):

For departure, he said travelers can save $120 off off-season prices by leaving on the Monday (Dec. 19) or Tuesday (Dec. 20) before Christmas. Going out on Christmas Eve could save people around $100 this year, Hopper estimated. The site said to avoid flying on Thursday (December 22) or Friday (December 23), as those will be the most expensive travel days.

For returns, the Tuesday (Dec 27) or Wednesday (Dec 28) after Christmas Day could save you $40 per ticket. Keyes said he would avoid returning on Monday (Dec. 26), New Year’s Day or Jan. 2, the most expensive return dates.

Some other tips from the experts

Have your ducks in a row: “Preparation is the best way to reduce stress when flying Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Dengler said. “If possible, book an early morning nonstop flight” on a lower-volume travel day. He also advised not to search a bag if possible.

Treat yourself: If you fly several times a year or more and value low stress, Keyes suggested getting a credit card that comes with “sexy perks.” That includes access to special airport lounges that take you away from the crowds and offer free food, drinks and even massages.

Avoid the rush: If you’re driving, Twidale said to leave early in the morning before rush hour or after 8 pm If you need a rental car, book it early to lock in the rate and pay in advance to save money. If you are going to fly but drive to the airport, reserve parking spaces. He also suggested signing up for TSA Pre-check to avoid long security lines.

Hotels: Berg said that if you’re headed 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 book the room. Warnings: this is for people who aren’t set on a certain hotel or specific neighborhood. And for smaller cities, he said people should still book earlier as options are limited.

(The-CNN-Wire and 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner company. All rights reserved.)

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