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When to book holiday travel to get the lowest prices

With the holiday season fast approaching, here is the best time to book your flight and the best days to fly.
Posted at 6:51 AM, Sep 01, 2023

You may be focused on your Labor Day getaway right now, but that's not the only trip you should be thinking about. It's also time to get holiday travel plans locked down.

The travelers we found heading out on their end-of-summer trips are not looking forward to holiday season flying. Susan Halstead says prices will be painful.

"I'll pay the price, but it hurts a little bit," she said.

Whitney Glover worries about crowded airports and holiday-week delays.

"It will be expensive and crowded," she said. "I think we'll probably try to stay local and stay off the planes during the holiday season."

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How to avoid the worst crowds

But if you need to fly over the holidays, travel agent Jerry Katz of First Discount Travel said you can avoid the big crowds and big costs by flying the week before Christmas or on the actual holidays themselves.

"You might want to look at some off-peak dates like flying on Christmas Day or New Year's Day as opposed to the 26th of December," he said.

Katz says Dec. 26 is one of the worst days of the year to fly due to high fares, crowds, and the chance of delays.

What about Thanksgiving weekend?

NerdWallet's Sally French says don't fly the Sunday after Thanksgiving, which, like Dec. 26, is historically one of the busiest travel days of the year.

"So if you can reroute your travel plans around that, that's a wise move in general," French said. "Tuesdays and Wednesdays make for the cheapest and least crowded days to fly."

How to find a lower price

French said you should start tracking prices now. NerdWallet predicts Thanksgiving flights will be cheapest around mid-September, just a few weeks from now.

And it suggests booking end-of-December flights around mid-October.

"If you go on Google Flights right now and you see that flight to go visit your family is lower than average, then certainly book that," French said.

NerdWallet said you should turn on price tracking for your preferred booking platform, such as Kayak, Expedia, or another site, and that way you'll be notified if there's a price drop.

Before Bruce and Teresa Rose headed out on a Labor Day flight, they struggled to find affordable airfare.

"This is the first time we've been out in a while, but it's shocking actually," Rose said.