Earlier this week, airfare expert Rick Seaney was asked if it was too late to get any kind of a deal on Christmas or New Year’s flights and his response was emphatic: “It’s never too late!” Then he added, “Shop now – the longer you wait, the more you will pay.”
Listen to more of Rick’s insider tips:
What Waiting Will Cost
Again, there is nothing to be gained by waiting to purchase holiday airfare. The penalties are as follows:
- Add $5 per day: For airfare purchase delays from late November to second week in December
- Add $10 per day: For airfare purchases delayed until after second week in December
Magical Date When Prices Rise Sharply
Pay attention to this date: Dec. 18. That is the last day the airlines offer their cheaper, pre-holiday pricing.
- Starting Dec. 19, airfare prices rise an average 30% to 70%
The wildly varying range of increases depends on the city pairs and routes.
Exception: Routes of roughly an hour or so (or less) between cities with frequent flights will be priced about the same as usual, and examples include Los Angeles-San Francisco and Houston-Dallas.
Cheapest and Most Expensive Days for Flights
A good rule of thumb for any holiday travel period – the most popular days to fly are the most expensive days to fly. A quick rundown:
Cheapest days to fly: Travel early and you can still have a holiday.
- Christmas Day (Dec. 25)
- New Year’s Day (Jan. 1)
Most expensive days to fly: Avoid these dates or try to travel on just one of them.
- Sunday before Christmas (Dec. 23)
- Sunday before New Year’s (Dec. 30)
Less cheap: More expensive than traveling on the holidays but a reasonable alternative.
- Thursday after Christmas and New Year’s (Dec. 27, Jan. 3)
- Saturday after Christmas and New Year’s (Dec. 29, Jan. 5)
Avoid Paying the Non-stop Premium
In general, expect to pay between 15% to 20% more for non-stops flights as opposed to connecting flights. While this is not always true it usually is – compare airfare prices to be sure.
Find Cheaper Airports
Often, the bigger the airport, the cheaper the flights. If a hub airport is a reasonable distance from your home airport, consider making the longer drive – the savings can be significant.
Other Savings Tips
Pack light: Unless you fly JetBlue or Southwest, you will pay a checked-bag fee. A carry-on bag will typically save you $50 round-trip per person.
Weigh bags: Overweight baggage fees are expensive – know your airline’s allowance (usually 50 lbs. per checked-bag) and check the weight before you head for the airport.
Good fees, bad fees: Save meal and snack fees by packing your own food, but consider paying for extras such as early boarding especially if traveling with family and kids. The time and aggravation you save may be worth it.