Traveling for Thanksgiving? Here’s Exactly When You Should Buy Your Flights

Updated September 29, 2016
by Susan Shain
Senior Writer
Best time to book flights

Football is officially back, and the leaves are starting to change (unless you live in Florida, like me) — which means it’s time to start thinking about your holiday travel plans.

If you want to fly home for Thanksgiving, but don’t want to spend your life savings, keep reading.  

I enlisted the help of Patrick Surry, chief data scientist at Hopper, an app that helps you predict when to buy flights. (It’s also one of my favorite travel tools!)
This guy has a Ph.D. in mathematics and statistics and is literally paid to analyze airline algorithms and figure out when flights will be cheapest.

Bottom line: He knows what he’s talking about.

Don’t miss his advice on when to book Thanksgiving flights and which days to travel — it could save you 20%!

The Best Time to Book Flights for Thanksgiving

So, bad news first: When it comes to Thanksgiving, “you tend to pay about twice as much for your flight as you would for the same trip on different dates,” Surry says.

Ugh.

Now for the (kind of) good news: “It tends not to matter too much how far ahead you book,” he explains. “As long as you book more than about 10-14 days ahead, you’re not likely to pay a huge amount more.”

So if you haven’t booked your Thanksgiving flights yet, don’t panic.

“Airlines know that you need to travel for very specific dates for Thanksgiving, and those prices just start expensive and stay expensive,” Surry says.

If you want to save money on Thanksgiving flights, the sweet spot to buy them is about 60-70 days ahead — in other words, right about now.

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If you’re not ready to buy yet, it’s OK; Surry says prices don’t vary much until about a month ahead.

He advises you “set an alert for your trip in the Hopper app” and “finalize your Thanksgiving air travel plans by Halloween.”

After that, “prices rise about $1.50 per day.” And in the 10 days leading up to the holiday, they “spike up $6 per day.”

Another way to save money? If your plans are flexible, consider flying on less popular days.

“Besides traveling on Thanksgiving Day, the cheapest days to travel are Monday, Nov. 21 through Friday, Nov. 25,” says Surry. Traveling then will save you about 20%.

In summary: Book soon if you can — definitely before Halloween. If you want to save even more, travel out on Monday and back on Friday.

And read this post with six more tips for finding cheap holiday flights.

Got it? Good. I’ll be back with Surry’s advice for December holidays in a few weeks!

Your Turn: Did you book your Thanksgiving flights yet?  

Susan Shain, senior writer for The Penny Hoarder, is always seeking adventure on a budget. Visit her blog at susanshain.com, or say hi on Twitter @susan_shain.

by Susan Shain
Contributor for The Penny Hoarder

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