Flights for Thanksgiving: The Time to Buy Airline Tickets is Now

If you plan to head home for the Thanksgiving holiday – or head anywhere – the time to shop is now.

Some Airfare Prices will Rise, Some will Drop

This week in particular is the time to shop for those who want to fly nonstop and fly during perfect times of the day, especially on the busiest days, meaning the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (Nov. 21) and the Sunday and Monday after the holiday (Nov. 25, 26).

If that is you, do not delay as I expect prices on these days to start rising now through Thanksgiving. On the flip side, I expect prices to drop for a couple of weeks on the least popular Thanksgiving travel days  – the Monday before the holiday (Nov. 19) and Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 22) before starting to rise again.

3 Good Reasons to Get to the Airport Early

Advice to Procrastinators

If your inclination is to delay shopping in the hope that an unexpected bargain pops up, beware. While it’s true the odd deal can crop up now and then, you cannot count on this. A more likely scenario in this era of capacity cutting is waiting to the last minute only to find no tickets available at any price.  So shop now, and here are some sample airfare prices to give you something to shoot for:

  • Short-haul routes (up to 500 miles): $120+ round-trip
  • Medium-haul routes (from 500 to 1,500 miles): $300+ round-trip
  • Long haul routes (1,500 miles or more): $425+ round-trip

7 Common Travel Problems and How to Fix Them

As always, specific prices can vary quite a bit depending on the popularity of the route – the more popular a route, the more expensive it will be. However, there are some ways to save, at least a little.

5 Tips to Find the Best Deals

Start by shopping this week. Then use as many of these tips as you can while doing so.

1. Compare prices

I cannot stress this enough – if you go to an individual airline site, you’ll see only that carrier’s prices and you may miss out on big savings.

2. Price multiple airports

Normally, flying in/out of a big hub airport is your cheapest option, but not always. When traveling to the Los Angeles area, for example, don’t just check prices to LAX because nearby Long Beach is a JetBlue focus city and may offer better deals.

Warning: TSA May Test Your Drink at the Gate

3. Compare connecting flights with nonstop

Again, it’s usually cheaper to take connecting flights, but all bets are off at Thanksgiving – it might be cheaper, it might not. Another good reason to compare prices.

4. Be flexible on days and times to fly

If you can endure a red-eye or overnight flight, you’ll probably save. Same for flights at dawn and other unpopular travel times. Days of the week can be crucial, too.

  • Days to avoid: Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and Sunday and Monday after the holiday
  • Day to fly: Thanksgiving Day – for those a short hop away who can fly in the morning

5. Try some fees, avoid others

  • Avoid the bag fees (unless flying free bag airlines like JetBlue or Southwest)
  • Try early boarding fees – if priced right, it can reduce stress especially when flying with family

More from Rick Seaney:

Thanksgiving Travel: How to Find Cheap Airfare


Published: September 18, 2012