The Best Time to Shop for Thanksgiving Airline Tickets is Now

Demand for Thanksgiving flights is looking about the same as last year, and demand was good. In other words, once again the airlines have us at their mercy.

If we want to fly, we have to pay. But never pay more than you have to.

LISTEN: Travel expert Rick Seaney on Turkey Day savings.

Shop for Thanksgiving Tickets Now

There are no bargains for Thanksgiving travel; it’s all about finding the best of the bad deals and an important way to do that is not to procrastinate. The sooner you buy your tickets the better because average Thanksgiving airfare prices are on the rise. If you delay, you will pay.

Rick’s general rule of thumb:

  • September: Add an extra $3 per day to airfare
  • October: Add an extra $5 per day to airfare

Based on FareCompare’s historical data for 2014 (covering ‘average low’ domestic airfares for the top 100 markets for travel on popular Thanksgiving days), we did see an anomaly or two. For instance, some of the 2014 prices actually dropped a few dollars in early November but this affected only some routes (while others were higher). Bottom line: There are no guarantees of any price drops for Thanksgiving travel in 2015.

Note: The per day ‘delay cost’ can be even higher for more convenient flights such as non-stops.

Cheapest Days to Travel for Thanksgiving

In 2015, Thanksgiving falls on Thursday, Nov. 26. What follows are the cheaper travel days.

Best departure dates (starting with the cheapest):

  • Thursday, Nov. 26 (yes, Turkey Day)
  • Monday, Nov. 23
  • Tuesday, Nov. 24

Best return dates (again, starting with the cheapest)

  • Tuesday, Dec. 1
  • Monday, Nov. 30
  • Saturday, Nov. 28

Most Expensive Days to Fly at Thanksgiving

Year after year, it’s the same story.

  • Most expensive Thanksgiving itinerary: Wednesday, Nov. 25 to Sunday, Nov. 29

Do those days look familiar? They should. It’s when most of us want to fly, and do.

More Ways to Cut Costs

Compare prices: Do not assume that cheap discount carrier will have the best price at Thanksgiving, because no single airline always has the best deal. Compare prices so you don’t pay too much.

Compare non-stops to connecting flights: Longer, less-convenient connecting flights are often cheaper (though not always); compare fares to be sure.

Avoid fees: Some are unavoidable but many airlines don’t charge for carry-on bags so it may to pack light.

Now get out there and start shopping. Trust me, you will be glad you did.


Video: 4 Tips to Save on Airfare Shopping During the Holidays


Updated: September 22, 2015