Thanksgiving Guide to Best Flight Deals: 2014

Published by Rick Seaney on September 24, 2014

Thanksgiving (Nov. 27) is such an All-American favorite, thanks to family, food and football. Not so much fun is the 'we gather together' part, mainly due to wildly expensive airfares. But we can help by showing both the best single days to fly and best trip itineraries.

LISTEN: Rick Seaney wants you to save even more – but we'll let him explain.

Finding the Elusive 'Better Bad Deal'

I won't lie and tell you it's easy to find deals at Thanksgiving because it's not. It's all about finding the best of the bad deals. If you've got a moment, take a look at these tips because they will help you lower the cost of Turkey Day tickets.

When to Buy Tickets

Shop now: Shop for tickets now and buy tickets now. In fact, Thanksgiving is the one time when you can break the 'don't shop too early' rule because it doesn't much matter. If you want to fly at Thanksgiving, do yourself a favor and shop now.

What Happens When You Delay

Delays mean you'll pay more. Do not procrastinate.

  • $3 per day: Add this to the cost of a ticket, each and every day you delay, now through September.
  • $5 per day: Add this to the cost of a ticket, each day you delay, starting in October.

If you considered buying airfare in late September but didn't get around to it until the end of October, you paid on average an extra $150 per ticket.

Cheapest and Most Expensive Single Days to Fly

Everyone wants to fly the traditional Wednesday to Sunday itinerary. If you can avoid these popular days you can save on average from 30 to 50 percent.

Departures: Best to Worst

  • Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 27) – Leave early enough and you'll arrive in plenty of time for dinner.
  • Monday (Nov. 24) – This day runs about 30 to 40 percent cheaper than Sunday (Nov. 30)
  • Tuesday (Nov. 25) – The day prices rise dramatically
  • Wednesday (Nov. 26) – Tied with Sunday (Nov. 20) as most expensive day to fly

Returns: Best to Worst

  • Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 27) – Wrap up a turkey leg to take with you that night
  • Friday (Nov. 28) and Monday (Dec. 1) – Prices
  • Saturday (Nov. 29) – On average about 10 to 15 percent cheaper than Sunday (Nov. 30)
  • Sunday (Nov. 30) – Tied with Wednesday (Nov. 26) as most expensive day to fly

Best Itineraries for Thanksgiving Travel

FareCompare went through its massive and constant-flow of real time airfare data to come up with the best trips for travelers, meaning the best itineraries. If you can swing it, try to plot your comings and goings as follows. If you can't, try to fly at least one of the less expensive days on half of your trip and you'll still reap some savings.

Top three travel itineraries* for Thanksgiving, in descending order:

  1. Nov. 27 to Dec. 2 (Thanksgiving Day to Tuesday)
  2. Nov. 25 to Dec. 2 (Tuesday to Tuesday)
  3. Nov. 24 to Nov. 28 (Monday to Friday)

*Based on data gathered in late September.

Cheaper Routes

Here are a couple of ways to lower airfare costs that depend on where and how you fly.

  • Compare connecting flights vs. non-stops: This is a good 'anytime' flight tip because connecting flights can save as much as 50 percent off airfare thanks to hefty holiday premiums for non-stops. It doesn't work on every route though, so you must compare airfare.
  • Compare hometown airports vs. large hubs: It's a fact of life today that bigger airports usually mean cheaper fares. Compare fares at multiple airports to see if driving an extra hour or two will save you money.

Cheaper Cities

Some of the cheaper destinations for Thanksgiving.

  • Short hub-to-hub flights: Flights about 90 minutes or less – between large airports with lots of airline competition – are relatively unaffected by holiday price swings. Flights within about a 700 mile arc may be considered within the 90 minutes zone so if you live in LA and Grandma's hosting dinner in San Francisco you'll do well, airfare-wise.
  • Other cheaper destinations: Throughout the year we've been finding good deals to several destinations thanks to lots of competition from low cost carriers and these cities include Boston, Denver and Seattle to name a few. Compare prices to see if any of these cities are cheaper from your airport.


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