BOISE – Many Americans are already making their Thanksgiving travel plans, and AAA is sharing some tips to help them navigate the challenges of booking flights.

While most people start booking their flights for Turkey Day right now, waiting a few weeks could bring cheaper airfares, with a possible average savings of up to $75 per ticket.  However, there are risks and trade-offs in taking this approach.

“As we get closer to the holiday, selection will be more limited, and as we’ve seen this summer, staffing shortages can quickly lead to cancelled flights.  Preferred times and nonstop flights will be the first to sell out, and if there are just a few seats remaining in your desired itinerary, you may pay more for the privilege by waiting,” says AAA Idaho public affairs director Matthew Conde.  “But if your travel plans are flexible, you may be able to shop around for a better deal.”

Yesterday, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their partners, known as OPEC+, agreed to cut crude oil production by two million barrels per day for the purpose of shoring up falling crude prices.  The cuts, which are nearly double what industry experts speculated before the announcement, will likely impact the cost of future road trips and airfare.

“The airlines have jet fuel contracts in place, so there may not be an immediate impact on plane tickets.  But as those contracts renew, higher costs will eventually make their way to the consumer,” Conde said.  “Some families may have to establish pain thresholds in their budget to determine when and how much they travel.”

While those who book less than a month before the holiday may save on airfare, AAA says that the exception is Thanksgiving week itself, when the average ticket price is expected to creep back up.

When looking at which days to fly, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving has eclipsed Wednesday as the busiest time at the airport, but Sunday is expected to be the most expensive travel day this year.  To save the most money and avoid the travel rush, flying on Thanksgiving Day may be the best option.

“Always book the first flight of the day if you can and build in adequate time for any connecting flights.  You’re less likely to hit a snag with cancellations and weather delays that can stack up throughout the day, and if those things do happen, you’ll have more time to figure out Plan B,” Conde said.  “Make sure you arrive with plenty of time to get through security checks and to the gate, as staffing shortages could really slow down the process over the holidays.”

Based on AAA National booking data, this year’s top domestic destinations for Thanksgiving are:

  1. Orlando, FL
  2. New York, NY
  3. Anaheim, CA
  4. Fort Lauderdale, FL
  5. Atlanta, GA
  6. Phoenix, AZ
  7. Dallas/Fort Worth, TX
  8. Las Vegas, NV
  9. Charlotte, NC
  10. Maui, HI