If you haven't booked your Thanksgiving trip yet, don't worry. According to Hopper, an app that predicts fares based on real-time and historical data, you won't pay much more if you've put off booking until October.
But don’t wait much longer: After Halloween, fares start going up by $1.50 a day on average. Ten days before departure, they go up $6 per day on average.
When it comes to Christmas and New Year’s, now is also the time to look into booking your travel. For every day closer to Christmas, according to Hopper, prices are expected to go up by $1.50 on average. But prices can also swing widely depending upon your destination and the time you pick. Moral of the story: now is the best time to book.
What if you are simply looking for the most affordable fare possible? If you can, travel on the holiday itself: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day are usually quiet at the airport, and you breeze through security.
What to Avoid
There are certain days that are notoriously the worst when it comes to holiday travel. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, try to avoid travel the Wednesday before, and the Sunday after—these are the busiest days of the year, and the most expensive when it comes to airline fares.
For Christmas and New Year’s, it depends upon the day of the week that the holidays fall. This year, the holidays fall on a Sunday—and according to Cheapair.com, which has the best and worst days for travel mapped out on a calendar, December 26 (a Monday) and January 2 (also a Monday) are expected to be the most expensive. Try to avoid those days if you can.
Travelers should also try not to fly later in the day, when air traffic delays are more likely. The earliest flights of the day (think 6 a.m.) are often less expensive—and the first flights out are more likely to get to their destination on time.
Hopper is one of the best tools out there in terms of fare predictions. Users simply enter their dates and destination, and the app will send notifications on whether or not you should keep waiting to book. For example, on a round-trip flight from New York City to Providenciales in the Turks & Caicos, from December 22-30, Hopper is saying it’s best to wait—flights are likely to drop as low as $545 (for a savings of $96).
Google Flights is an excellent resource, too. Not only can you compare flights, but you can also look at a whole monthly calendar to see which days are the cheapest to fly to your destination (those days are noted in green text). A tip box may also pop up, noting that you can save money by switching to a different airport, or by flying on a different day. And Google has also added a new feature where they may send an alert or tip letting you know if your trip is about to get more expensive.
When it comes to getting to and from the airport, Uber now allows you to a schedule a ride, thanks to a new feature on the app. Available in major domestic markets such as New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, Nashville, and San Diego, the ride schedule feature is great for holiday travelers who want to book their transportation with a swipe and a tap.
Where to Stay
When it comes to booking your hotels for the Christmas holidays, here’s a surprising tip: it actually pays to wait. According to a recent study by TripAdvisor, hotel prices in the United States remain fairly steady in the United States from March until November, when rates start to drop. By Thanksgiving week, they’ve dropped an average of 21%—so if you can break away from the dinner table to book your Christmas hotel, do so.
Another thing to think about is looking outside the traditional hotel market. Consider a great resource like bedandbreakast.com, or renting someone’s apartment and home through Airbnb. Many people are traveling for the holidays, so this is a great time to look into those types of accommodations.
Also, don't forget extended-stay hotels. Places such as the Roost in Philadelphia or Hollywood Proper Residences in Los Angeles often accommodate business travelers—who aren’t traveling for the holidays. So you may be able to get an even greater deal.
Not surprisingly, cities can offer some of the best value for holiday travelers. These are destinations with big hotels that have a lot of inventory to fill. According to Expedia, Las Vegas, New York City, and Orlando are among the most affordable places to visit for the holidays this year. The holiday season for Vegas, in particular, sees the city's lowest rates all year—so you can stay in luxury properties like the Bellagio and the Wynn.
Also according to Trip Advisor, primetime city markets including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Austin also offer low prices during the month of December.