AAA reveals the ideal time to purchase flights for Thanksgiving and Christmas starts Sept. 25

19 September 2019

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. In fact, a recent analysis of AAA Travel’s flight booking data from the last three years reveals that Sept. 25 marks the start of the best booking window for air travel around both the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. 

View the full 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 Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA - The Auto Club Group. “Knowing when to book and what days to fly can help travelers effectively manage their budget and avoid the crowd."


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 Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA - The Auto Club Group. "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 worthy every penny."

For more information, visit AAA.com/Travel.

Methodology

AAA analyzed its member flight booking data for travel within the continental United States, from 2016-2018 to determine the best and most popular times to book air travel for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, as well as the prices travelers pay during various advance booking windows. An unweighted, three-year average ticket price was used for this analysis. Since Thanksgiving always falls on a Thursday, the full week of Thanksgiving (Sunday through Saturday) was analyzed. For the Christmas holiday, Dec. 19-26 was analyzed, regardless of what day of the week Christmas fell on that year.

About The Auto Club Group

The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America. ACG and its affiliates provide membership, insurance, financial services and travel offerings to over 9.9 million members across 11 states and two U.S. territories including Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; most of Illinois and Minnesota; and a portion of Indiana. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 59 million members in the United States and Canada and whose mission includes protecting and advancing freedom of mobility and improving traffic safety. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel, and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. Visit AAA on the Internet at AAA.com.