It all depends on who you ask.
Travelers looking for deals on flights know that when it comes to booking, there is no magic date when everyone on Earth will find cheap trips home for the holidays. Many sources suggest that there is something of a sweet spot, however, for winter vacation flights booked during the summer.
Cheapflights.com said you could find savings on your Christmas vacation as early as the week of July 2, with availability until mid-September.
The latest data from Skyscanner, on the other hand, suggests that travelers stand to save up to four percent on average prices for winter holiday trips (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, for example) by booking the week after Labor Day.
Another window, Skyscanner predicts, will open the week of November 6 with similar savings.
A new study by Bankrate.com suggests that some six million travelers have purchased flights home (or far from home) for the holidays — about 20 percent of American adults planning to travel for the holidays.
And the 80 percent who haven’t booked a flight yet may be rewarded for their procrastination.
Hipmunk recently released a holiday booking analysis that highlights the week of September 25 as the best time to find flight deals.
The analysis suggests that travelers could save 27 percent off median Thanksgiving flight prices and as much as 38 percent off median Christmas flights by waiting until the end of September.
“[As] long as you book before Halloween,” Hipmunk’s co-founder and CEO, Adam Goldstein, in a statement, “you’ll usually avoid the highest prices.”
Hipmunk noted that most bookings for both Thanksgiving as well as Christmas occur during the beginning of October, which likely drives prices beyond the “point of no return.”
To further complicate the matter, the fare prediction app Hopper has said those Christmastime tickets could be cheapest in early October.
If all this seems a bit, well, maddening — you’re not alone. That’s why the best way to find the cheapest flights for your personal travel dates and routes is to set price alerts.
“Flight prices for holiday travel tend to fluctuate through September and October,” Goldstein added. “So it’s best to set a fare alert.”
Book your holiday flights with confidence by spending some time searching your flights an dates — especially if they’re not flexible — on Google Flights. Their low fare calendar will give you a solid sense of what average prices look like, and when you can find the best prices (those attractive-looking prices in green).
Don’t see a deal? Set a fare alert, like Goldstein recommended. Hopper will send push notifications straight to your phone telling you when prices drop.
Sites like KAYAK can make recommendations as to whether those prices are poised to drop, or if you should bite the proverbial bullet and book.