AAA’s Holiday Airfare Advice

AAA’s travel data highlights the best times to book and to fly

BOISE – (October 22, 2018) – With the holidays just around the corner, many Americans plan to fly to visit family and friends this year. Their goal is simple – book a reasonable itinerary that doesn’t break the bank.  Based on AAA’s recent analysis of its last three years of flight booking data, there are important tradeoffs to consider.

“Travelers who book a flight well in advance have the first pick of dates and times that they prefer, but they’ll pay more for the privilege,” says Matthew Conde, public affairs director for AAA Idaho. “Those with a bit more flexibility could find some good deals by booking right before the holidays.”

 

Thanksgiving flight plans – AAA’s latest research

  • The Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving are the most popular travel days, and travelers will pay the highest average price per ticket ($509 and $507 respectively).
  • The Monday before Thanksgiving historically has a low average ticket price ($465), and it’s typically a lighter air travel day. The lightest day of all? Thanksgiving Day – at $446 per ticket, it’s also one of the least expensive. Travelers can save money and still make it for turkey time.
  • Early planners who booked over the summer paid between $504 and $517 on average. Travelers who book 28-60 days prior to Thanksgiving (right now) can expect to pay less – around $478 roundtrip. Procrastinators will save the most, at $459 per ticket if they book 7-13 days before, but they may have to deal with limited flight availability and longer layovers.

Last year, nearly 21,000 Idahoans celebrated Thanksgiving with air travel.

 

Christmas flight plans – AAA’s latest research

  • Most travelers depart two or three days before the holiday. This year, Saturday, December 22 and Sunday, December 23 will be the busiest days at the airport.
  • The lightest travel day? Christmas Eve. Travelers who delay the holiday cheer can pay the lowest price per ticket ($512 on average), but few choose to do so.
  • The gap in ticket savings is much steeper for booking a Christmas flight.  Those who book six months early get the best travel schedules, but they’ll pay between $641 and $659 roundtrip to do so. Travelers who are booking right now can expect to pay up to $100 less ($551 per ticket). Last-minute ticket bookings are fairly risky, as cold weather could bring delayed and postponed flights on top of the already limited availability, but they are also the cheapest – an average of $488.

Last year, nearly 44,000 Idahoans took to the air as part of their Christmas plans.

“When it comes to visiting loved ones over the holidays, most of us aren’t exactly budget-conscious,” Conde said. “A skilled travel consultant can usually find savings by bundling airfare, a rental car, and if necessary, a hotel.”

 

What to do if you’re delayed

A flight delay may be unexpected, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be stressful. Once you’ve pulled up the airport’s free app or website, there are several ways to make the most of your extra time:

  • Sample the local cuisine. More and more, airports showcase popular restaurants and regional flavors. Find a comfortable spot and enjoy a good meal.
  • Appreciate the arts. Most airports offer rotating art displays, and you can often find live music, too. Take some extra time to unwind.
  • Hit the spa. Almost every airport has at least one spa – even a quick neck and back massage can relieve tension and help keep things in perspective.
  • Consider an airline club day pass. They aren’t cheap, but many airlines will allow you to purchase a one-day pass to their lounge, providing access to a comfortable, quiet setting with snacks and, in some cases, even showers. It can be a great way to pass the time, especially for longer delays.

“AAA’s research does provide some good news for last-minute travelers,” Conde pointed out. “If you find out at the last minute that you can get the time away from work or other obligations, you’ve got a great chance of saving some money on airfare.  Being spontaneous may add a few zig-zags in your travel plans, but it usually makes for a great story later.”