Want to Save on Thanksgiving Airfare? Read This Right Now

Heads up, Thanksgiving travelers. If you haven’t bought your airline ticket yet and are wondering when to buy, when to fly and what to pay, please keep reading. I will answer all these questions and more. But here’s the main point: Act fast! Many of you must start shopping now.

Some bonus Thanksgiving airfare tips, courtesy travel expert Rick Seaney:

Thanksgiving: When to Fly

Holiday flights will be expensive – there’s no getting around that. It’s the busiest and one of the most lucrative times of the year for the airlines. But some days are cheaper than others.

Most expensive days to fly:

  • Wednesday before (Nov. 27)
  • Sunday after (Dec. 1)
  • Monday after (Dec. 2)

Cheaper days to fly:

  • Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 28) – the very cheapest day to fly
  • Monday before (Nov. 25
  • Tuesday before (Nov. 26)
  • Saturday after (Nov. 30)
  • Tuesday after (Dec. 3)

What to know about change fees and holiday travel

Thanksgiving: When to Buy

Shop now. Delaying the inevitable ticket purchase won’t save you a dime. In fact, the opposite will happen – you will pay more. See what delays can cost you:

  • Wednesday and Sunday flights: Add $5 per day, starting now, for every day you delay your ticket purchase
  • Flights on other days: Add $5 per day, starting in the third week of October, for every day you delay your ticket purchase

If you delay shopping until early November, all bets are off. You could even pay hundreds of dollars more than you have to.

Thanksgiving: What to Pay

Again, the sooner you shop, the more you can save. The following are what I call “best price goals” which can vary depending on departure and/or arrival cities. Prices shown are round-trip.

Long-haul flights: Example, New York to Los Angeles

  • For flights including Wednesday and Sunday travel, about $550
  • For flights on other days, from under $425 to $430

Medium-haul flights: Example, Chicago to Washington, D.C.

  • For flights including Wednesday and Sunday travel, about $375
  • For flights on other days, under $300

Short-haul flights: Example, San Francisco to Los Angeles

  • For flights including Wednesday and Sunday travel, about $200
  • For flights on other days, about $150

Note: Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t meet these goals; you’re still ahead of the airfare game just by coming close. Also, when it comes to short-haul flights on competitive routes, you will notice a far less dramatic price increase around the holiday period.

Could this new airline fee actually save you money?

Thanksgiving: Tips for Cheaper Flights

How to save money even if you can’t avoid the more expensive travel days.

  1. Split your travel days: Fly on just one of the more expensive days, and one of the cheaper days
  2. Add inconvenience: In most cases you will save by adding a stop or two to your route
  3. Compare airports: Usually bigger, hub-type airports offer cheaper flights and it may be worth it even if you have to drive an extra hour (or two)
  4. Fly less popular times: Overnight or red-eye flights can offer significant savings over daytime trips
  5. Use a carry-on: Thanksgiving is a short holiday – will you really fill a checked-bag? An easy way to save $50 round-trip

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Published: September 26, 2013