After two years of depressed holiday season travel due to waves of the covid-19 pandemic, Americans are gearing up for a season of Thanksgiving and Christmas travel once again. More than half of Americans plan to travel for one or both of the holidays this year, with 70% of travelers planning to visit friends and family.
Significant factors including jet fuel prices, fewer flights scheduled and two years of pent up holiday travel demand will combine this year to drive Thanksgiving and Christmas airfares to their highest in the last 5 years. Though at least 30% of travelers plan to fly this holiday season, two thirds name finding good prices a primary consideration as they solidify holiday plans. Finding good deals and exercising the best tactics to save will be top of mind for American travelers this year. We’ve rounded up the best ways to save on holiday travel here.
Start planning now: Travelers who start planning their holiday trips with Hopper early have historically saved as much as 18% off domestic airfare and 15% off international airfare for Thanksgiving and Christmas. With this years’ airfares higher than ever before, those savings could come to $60-$80 off domestic flights and $120-$195 off international flights. Download the Hopper app and begin monitoring prices now. Using the watch feature, plug in your holiday destination and we’ll keep you notified of price changes and the best time to buy.
Be flexible on travel dates: Save as much as $300 off peak airfare by flying on less popular dates before and after each holiday week. For Thanksgiving, flying the Monday of Thanksgiving week and returning any week day of the following week will save you the most. Similarly, departing the Monday or Tuesday before Christmas weekend and returning the Monday through Wednesday of the following week will get you the most bang for your buck.
Book airfare by the week of October 10th: Airfare will remain high, but volatile (moving up and down day to day) through early October, before rising in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas. Over the next few weeks while prices are volatile, travelers who are proactively monitoring prices could get notified of great, time sensitive deals.
This year Hopper expects most travelers will pay $350 per ticket for a good deal domestic Thanksgiving flight. Airfares will be 22% higher than in 2019, and 43% higher than last year. Fares for Thanksgiving peaked at over $400 in August, but have fallen ~9% into September as they do each year and will remain at the current level until mid to late October.
International airfare is currently averaging $795 per ticket this Thanksgiving, up 25% compared to 2019 and up 41% compared to last year. Prices for international travel will rise slowly as Thanksgiving approaches; be sure to start monitoring prices now and expect to book before mid October.
Good deal airfare for Christmas this year is averaging $463 per ticket as of mid September. Airfares are currently averaging 31% higher than in 2019, and 39% higher than last year. Fares for Christmas rose until they reached over $500 in August, but have fallen 3% - 5% into September as they do each year.
International airfare has risen to $1,300 per ticket this year, an increase of 26% compared to 2019, and 20% compared to 2018. International airfare will rise on average from September through the holidays, so monitoring prices for deals will be key to getting a good price this year.
When to Fly?
Departing the weekend ahead of Thanksgiving and returning the weekend after are the most expensive travel dates for domestic travelers. Plan to fly Monday of Thanksgiving week and return any week day of the following week to save the most!
Many travelers will take advantage of Thanksgiving holiday and short work week to head out for a longer, international trip. Save 12% or $100 on average off peak airfare by flying the day before Thanksgiving (11/23) for international destinations. Save 17% or $162 on average off airfare by returning on Cyber Monday following the holiday. Prices will remain low for returns on Travel Deal Tuesday as well.
With Christmas falling over a weekend this year, the bookend days (Thursday, Friday, Monday) will be the most expensive to fly, with airfare averaging well over $500 per domestic ticket. For flexible travelers, savings of 25% or $120+ off peak airfare are possible by flying on Monday or Tuesday ahead of Christmas weekend.
International travelers will see the lowest airfares for departures closest to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Returning Monday through Wednesday of the following week will offer the most savings off peak prices, $450/ticket or more compared to returning New Year’s Eve or January 2nd. The most expensive days to return will be New Year’s Day through January 2nd, so plan to return before the end of the year for the best prices.
Despite significant travel recovery since the peak of the pandemic, travelers continue to plan trips closer to their departure dates than prior to the pandemic. Today, a smaller proportion of travelers are planning Christmas and Thanksgiving trips than at this time in 2019 or 2018. Given airlines are flying fewer flights this year and demand is expected to skyrocket for holiday travel, Americans need to start planning their holiday trips now!
Travelers who start planning their holiday trips with Hopper early have historically saved as much as 18% off domestic airfare and 15% off international airfare for Thanksgiving and Christmas. With this years’ airfares higher than ever before, those savings could come to $60-$80 off domestic flights and $120-$195 off international flights.
Airfare for Thanksgiving flights dropped more than $50 on average in the last 3 weeks, and travelers monitoring prices with Hopper were able to take advantage of major savings when booking. Start watching flights now to maximize your savings!
Book between September 12th and October 20th. Prices will continue to fall until early September then remain relatively flat until mid October. Though prices will remain flat over this period, be warned that with lower capacity than in 2019, flights will be selling out quickly for Thanksgiving and there may be fewer options as mid-October approaches. Prices for Thanksgiving will rise by $10 on average per day from the beginning of November until Thanksgiving, peaking at nearly $550 for last minute tickets.
Book between September 12th and October 20th. Prices for Christmas airfare are higher than in the last 5 years, but they have improved compared to >$500 per ticket in mid August. Airfare will remain high, but volatile (moving up and down day to day) through early October, before rising in the last two months before Christmas. The next few weeks of volatile prices means travelers who are proactively monitoring prices could get notified of great, time sensitive deals.
Today, about half of all bookings made for Christmas are for domestic trips, while closer to 60% of Thanksgiving trips are for domestic destinations. Typically travelers will book international flights earlier than domestic flights, so we expect by the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas to see closer to 70% - 80% of travelers staying domestic compared to 25% traveling internationally.
Travelers staying in the US for the Thanksgiving season are headed to major US cities like New York, Orlando and Los Angeles. International travelers are headed to destinations across the world, with Dublin, Cancun and Doha topping Hopper’s list of most booked international destinations this Thanksgiving.
For Christmas, New York, Los Angeles and Seattle currently top the most booked ranking for domestic trips. Internationally, Mexico City and Guadalajara, Mexico top the list, as well as Malina, Philippines.
Accommodations Price Outlook
The average nightly rate for stays over the Thanksgiving holiday is $189 per night, an increase of 13% from last year’s average nightly rate of $167 per night.
Thanksgiving stays are typically for three or four nights. Most travelers over the Thanksgiving holiday book a hotel stay from Thanksgiving Day through the weekend and check out the following Monday morning. More than half of stays check in on Thanksgiving or the day prior to the holiday. The most expensive night over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend is Saturday, November 25 at $212 per night. Americans that stay over the entire holiday weekend can expect to pay an average of $567 for a three stay night and an average of $779 for a four night stay.
The average nightly rate for a hotel stay over the Christmas holiday is currently $218 per night, an increase of 32% from Christmas last year. Travelers typically plan getaway vacations for a week or longer over the Christmas holiday. More than half of the search volume for hotel stays over Christmas is for at least seven nights. This year the average search over the Christmas holiday is for about 8 nights, up 2 nights from last year.
Hotel rates increase in the days leading up to Christmas Eve and remain above an average of $230 per night through the following week. Americans that decide to stay from Christmas Eve through New Year’s Eve can expect to pay an average of $2,177 for their hotel stay.
Booking at the last minute for hotels can actually save you the most over the holidays. If you’re flexible with where you stay, you can save as much as 25% by booking at the last minute on the day of or day before your stay. However, keep in mind that you will need to be flexible with hotel quality and amenities to get the best price at the last minute. Hotels typically lower prices on remaining inventory in the month prior to the check-in date. Plan to book Thanksgiving hotel stays by the first week of November and Christmas hotel stays by the first week of December.
However, if you’re looking to plan a getaway vacation over several nights stay, you should plan to book at least three weeks in advance. Vacation destinations typically do not discount remaining inventory to the same degree that hotels in cities do.
This Thanksgiving, top trending destinations include Las Vegas ($166 per night), New York City ($343 per night), and Honolulu ($307 per night). The best deals for destinations in the U.S. over the Thanksgiving holiday are Kissimmee, Florida ($110 per night), Myrtle Beach, South Carolina ($125 per night), and Houston, Texas ($134 per night).
International travelers over the Thanksgiving holiday are searching for warm weather destinations such as Cancun, Mexico ($262 per night), Bangkok, Thailand ($69 per night), and Medellin, Colombia ($72 per night).
Trending destinations for stays over the Christmas vacation are family-friendly destinations with theme parks such as Orlando, Florida ($164) and Anaheim, California ($165 per night). Warm-weather destinations such as Scottsdale, Arizona ($233 per night), Fort Myers, Florida ($163 per night), and Tampa, Florida ($164) are also trending.
International travelers over Christmas are planning longer stays at resort destinations such as Montego Bay, Jamaica ($622 per night), Puerto Vallarta, Mexico ($247 per night), and Playa del Carmen, Mexico ($270 per night). The Christmas markets in Germany are also attracting travelers to Berlin ($90 per night).
With 65% of holiday travelers planning to drive to their holiday destinations this year, rental car prices and gas prices will be top of mind. Currently, car rentals are averaging $60 per day for Thanksgiving, with most travelers looking for longer rentals of ~5 days. Over Christmas, most travelers searching for car rentals are planning 7 day trips, with prices averaging $53 per day.
Typically, booking at the last minute will get travelers the best deal on car rentals. However, with lower supply of rental vehicles in the market and a busy holiday season ahead, waiting until the last minute could mean there are no vehicles left to book! Plan to book rental cars at the same time as holiday flights to ensure you have a car waiting for you at pick up.
Orlando (MCO), Las Vegas (LAS) and Miami (MIA) are currently the most searched for pick up airports for Thanksgiving travel this year. Orlando (MCO), Los Angeles (LAX) and Miami (MIA) are the most searched for pick up airports for Christmas travel. These top airports will have a high volume of rental car bookings over the holiday season. If you’re picking up at one of these destinations, be sure to book early!