Time to Buy Airline Tickets for Christmas and New Year's Holiday Flights

You haven’t purchased your airline tickets for the holidays yet? Time to get busy, and FareCompare can help with our Holiday Flight Finder.

But brace yourself. You may find holiday airfares a bit of a shock this year.

A Better Bad Deal For Holiday Travel

Yes, airline ticket prices for Christmas and New Year’s will be high–and may mean no cheap airline tickets; that’s because the airlines know you want to fly, and they are going to make the most of it by charging you more. What I tell people is, get yourself a “better bad deal” – and when to shop and buy is critical.

Get Your Holiday Airfare Now

Here’s why: the planes will likely be packed this holiday season, since a lot of folks stayed home last year. Pent up demand means seats on the routes you want could sell out earlier than usual this year. Do not delay; but be aware that prices are on the rise. If you get an alert, open it immediately as there will be a lot of competition for any possible deals.

No Last Minute Deals for Procrastinators

A couple of times in the past, we’ve seen procrastinators rewarded with good last minute deals, but we do not expect to see such deals this year.

So procrastinators will likely be penalized. If you fail to buy your tickets in a timely fashion, you could be looking at coast-to-coast fares in the $600 to $800 roundtrip range, or above.

Take a look at our new Christmas Travel Guide; it’s packed with great information yet it’s a quick read. Learn tips on making travel easier, plus inventive ways to save money.

When to Fly for Christmas Travel

As usual, prices will jump for Christmas in mid-December; this year, look for airfare to go up on Friday, Dec. 17. If you can fly before then, you will see some savings.

Avoid Peak Travel Surcharge Dates

Not surprisingly, the airlines begin loading up travel dates with surcharges (like baggage fees) beginning Dec. 17 and continuing through Jan. 3; the one date without a surcharge – and you’ll see this at a glance on our “peak travel day airfare surcharge chart” – is Christmas day itself, Dec. 25. If you can fly then, again, you will save.

Cheapest Days for Christmas Travel

A quick review of the money-saving travel days to shoot for:

  • Fly before Dec. 17 and after Jan. 3
  • Fly Christmas Day – Dec. 25

Save on Holiday Travel – Four Ways

If those dates don’t work for you (and they don’t work for most of us, I’m afraid), there are other ways to ease the economic pain of holiday airfare. Some ideas:

1. ) Fly Midweek or Saturday

The cheapest days to fly are typically Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays and these are often the days with cheaper airline surcharges.

2.) Fly Early in the Day or at Dinner Time

Whatever day you choose to fly, look for the first flight out in the morning, or a dinner-time flight or an overnight flight – again, the times most people don’t want to fly. These “unpopular times to fly” are generally the cheapest times to fly.

3.) Check Out Connecting Flights

Compare the prices of both nonstops and connecting flights to your destination. An itinerary with a stop (or two) could save you money.

4.) Use a Carryon to Avoid Baggage Fees

Save big with this easy trick: don’t check a bag. A family of four can save $200 in baggage fees, and I’ll bet you have better things to do with that money at Christmas time.


Published: August 23, 2010