More than 100 million of us will be traveling over the Holidays to visit family or take advantage of days off from work.  Let me try to help make your Holiday travel plans easier.  Here’s guidance on when to travel and when to buy tickets:

WHEN TO TRAVEL

Thanksgiving

The Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving will be not only the most crowded days at the airport but also more expensive.  Save yourself time and money by avoiding flying November 20th and 21st this year (2018).  If you want a better option, fly the Monday before Thanksgiving (that’s November 19th) or fly on Thanksgiving Day itself.

Christmas

The busiest pre-Christmas travel days are usually two or three days before the holiday, regardless of what day of the week Christmas falls on.  For this year, that means December 22nd and 23rd – a Saturday and Sunday – will be the busiest.  Crowds will be at their lightest and ticket prices at their lowest on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

WHEN TO BUY

Popular Holiday travel dates are often “blackout” dates meaning that frequent flyer miles can’t be used and discounts are unlikely. People often think that booking well in advance means lower prices.  There are a number of benefits to booking early (>60 days) such as greater schedule and flight options but prices actually often decrease as you get closer because airlines want to fill every seat.  But remember, it’s far easier during the Holidays for them to fill all those seats so you don’t want to wait too long – looking for a bargain and run into a sold-out situation.

Here’s the guidance I give my clients:    Most travelers book 28 to 60 days ahead of the Holidays.  If you book within 27 to 7 days prior, you might save 5 to 15% but you may not find ideal flight times or seats.  So, if you’re traveling in a family group (parents and kids), don’t take that chance.  Book it early.  If you’re flying solo or it’s just you and the significant other and you really need to save some money, then go for it.  Bottom line, start your research early.  The more informed you are on rates, flights and seats, the better able you’re going to be to recognize a great flight value when it pops up.

AAA’s Via Magazine had a great article this month on the topic.

Another tip:  AAA Travel Agents have access to special “air consolidator” fares.  If a fare seems especially outrageous, see if I can beat it.  I can often save AAA members a couple hundred dollars, (especially on flights >$1,500), even after adding my modest $40 fee.

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