How to Find Affordable Holiday Flights This Year

Travel demand has surpassed pre-pandemic levels in 2022, leading to higher prices, but Hopper has tips on how to save some money during the holiday travel season.

The hectic summer travel season is in the rearview, but that doesn’t mean its clear sailing for an airline industry that has struggled to return to form following the pandemic. 

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration screened 8.76 million passengers over the Labor Day weekend. The TSA said that number was higher than pre-pandemic levels in 2019. 

The airlines also recognize the trend. 

Last week, United Airlines  (UAL) – Get United Airlines Holdings Inc. Report raised his third quarter revenue growth forecast, saying that it expects July through September revenue to be 12% higher than it was in the same quarter in 2019. That estimate is up from its previous projection of an 11% increase. 

United said that it expects the ongoing increase in travel demand to more than offset economic headwinds. 

And now with the holiday travel season on the horizon, consumer demand will only serve to drive prices up in the coming months. 

Travel booking service Hopper has some tips for travelers looking to save a few dollars on their travel plans. 

Finding Flight Deals

The average ticket for a domestic flight this Thanksgiving is $350, a 22% increase over 2019 and a 43% increase over last year, with hotels averaging $189 per night and rental cars going for $60 per day. 

Meanwhile Christmas domestic flights are going for an average of $463, 31% higher than 2019 and 39% higher than last year, with hotels going for $218 per night and rental cars costing $53 per day. 

So how can you save on those prices? 

Hopper’s top recommendation is to start planning your trip as soon as possible. The farther out you book your flight, the more likely the chance that you’ll get the cheapest price. 

Being flexible on travel dates could also serve to lower costs. Hopper says you can save as much as $300 on your tickets by booking off-peak tickets on the less popular dates before and after each holiday week. 

For Thanksgiving, traveling the Monday before as well as on Thanksgiving Day offer the best value, with up to $90 off peak weekend fares.

The Friday after Thanksgiving is also a good day to book your return flight. Returning the weekend after Thanksgiving will cost travelers more than $500. Travelers who push their return date to Tuesday can save $220 per ticket and $270 per ticket if they return on Wednesday. 

This year, Christmas falls on a Sunday. The Monday and Tuesday before Christmas will be the cheapest days to travel, with average savings of $120 off peak prices. 

Traveling on Christmas Eve, Saturday, will save you $100 compared to Thursday and Friday prices. 

For your return trip, the Tuesday or Wednesday after Christmas will save you $40 per ticket compared to returning on Monday. 

Travel Trends 

October is the month to look out for. 

Hopper sees airfare remaining high, but volatile, through early October. Those daily price changes during the volatile period can experience sudden drops, so vigilant shoppers who monitor prices can get good deals over the next few weeks. 

The holiday season’s domestic travelers are flocking to major U.S. cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Orlando for Thanksgiving, while international travelers are going to Dublin, Cancun, and Doha, according to Hopper’s survey. 

For Christmas, New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle are the top domestic destinations while international travelers are headed to Mexico City and Guadalajara, as well as Malina, Philippines. 

The rule of thumb for booking hotels is the opposite of booking flights. Booking hotels last minute can save you as much as 25% if you do so on the day of.

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