Airfare Is Expected to Hit a 5-year High This Holiday Season — Here's How You Can Still Save

Hopper data shows a 31% increase in Christmas airfare when compared to 2019.

Travelers wearing protective masks walk through LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020.

Angus Mordant/Getty Images

Holiday prices this season will be the highest they’ve been in five years as Americans, new data shows.

The Christmas holiday will be the most expensive with domestic airfare averaging $463 round trip, an increase of 31% compared to 2019, according to data from Hopper shared with Travel + Leisure on Tuesday. International airfare during the holiday is averaging a whopping $1,300 round trip, a 26% increase compared to 2019.

Thanksgiving prices are looking to be a little cheaper, averaging $350 for a round trip flight. But that was still a 22% increase from the same time period in 2019. And international flights — Thanksgiving is often a great time to snag a deal abroad — were also lower, averaging $795 round trip.

The price increases are due to a combination of jet fuel prices, fewer flights scheduled, and high demand.

Still, Hopper found more than half of Americans plan to travel for either one or both of the holidays this year. And at least 30% plan to fly. 

“With both Thanksgiving and Christmas airfares expected to be higher than in previous years, we recommend travelers start planning early by monitoring prices now,” Hayley Berg, Hopper’s lead economist, told T+L, adding, “Flexible travelers will save the most this holiday season. If you can be flexible on travel dates and fly before and after each holiday week you can save as much as $300 off peak airfares.”

Berg said prices — especially for Christmas — are expected to “fluctuate in the coming weeks.” Travelers looking for a deal on Thanksgiving travel should think about flying either on Monday, Nov. 21, or on Thanksgiving Day and returning the week after the holiday. And travelers hoping to save some money for Christmas should depart the Monday or Tuesday before the holiday and return on the Tuesday or Wednesday after Christmas Day.

Overall, travelers should book their holiday flights no later than mid-October (and really, the sooner, the better). 

When it comes to hotels, however, the opposite is true with Hopper recommending travelers book a room at the last minute to save, especially in big cities. By doing this (and being flexible on where they stay), the site said travelers could save as much as 25%.

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