International Flights for Christmas: Buying Guide

Planning an overseas flight or a border-crossing trip for the holidays? According to airfare analyst Rick Seaney, the time to shop is now.

Listen as airfare expert Rick Seaney reveals when to buy your tickets.

Cheapest Destinations in U.S. and Europe

When to Buy International Flights for Christmas

Seaney says the shopping/buying window on international airline ticket purchases for Christmas flights is now open – at the very least, travelers should be comparing prices. At the very latest, purchases should be completed by the end of October.

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What to Pay for International Holiday Flights

Prices can vary widely depending on the region you’re visiting and even from city to city, but Seaney suggests Europe will have reasonable prices and what he calls a good price on a trip to Europe during Christmas season is anything under $900 round-trip (coach fare). If you can delay the trip until early January, odds are good you’ll see prices under $800 round-trip.

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Cheapest Days to Fly Internationally

As is the case with domestic fares, the cheaper times to fly internationally are the less popular times. This includes the less desirable weekday flights which are generally cheaper than weekends by about $20 to $40. Two of the cheapest days to fly during the holidays are Christmas Eve (Dec. 24) and New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31) which fall on Mondays.

Business Class Deals

Historically, United has filed discounted business class deals that run below $2,000 round-trip. In the past, these have been good for travel on select days around Thanksgiving and Christmas from the airline’s hubs in Newark, Cleveland and Houston. “We might see them again,” said Seaney, “and it never hurts to look.”

Using Frequent Flyer Miles

The holidays, particularly Christmas, can be a good time to investigate using accumulated miles. It’s a time of year when a lot of airlines have a bit more ‘reward inventory’ so if you have miles you’re more likely to be able to redeem them.

Why Prices Remain High

Normally winter is the off-peak season for many destinations – Europe in particular – but this year, fuel surcharges and taxes are driving the base airfare prices. For example, on a $900 round-trip ticket to Europe, the average fuel surcharge is $450 and the average taxes are $150 or more. In other words, the actual airfare is a mere $150 each-way – everything else is fuel and taxes.



Published: October 3, 2012