2023 Holiday Travel Outlook

For holiday travelers, plan to book both Thanksgiving and Christmas trips no later than October 14th

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Hayley Berg - Wed Sep 20 2023

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  • Thanksgiving

    • Thanksgiving travelers are in luck this holiday season, with airfares averaging $268 per ticket, down -14% from this time last year and down -7% from 2019 prices. 

    • Car rentals for Thanksgiving are currently averaging $42 per day, down -17% from $52 per day at this time last year. Most Thanksgiving travelers are looking for a 5 day rental to make a long weekend out of the holiday. 

  • Christmas

    • Airfare for Christmas trips are averaging $400 today, down $52 per ticket (-12%) from this time last year, but still significantly higher (+29%) than this time in 2019. 

    • Rentals for Christmas are currently averaging $53 per day, in line with prices at this time last year. Most Christmas travelers are also looking for a 5 day rental, likely due to the holiday falling over a long weekend similar to last Christmas.

The holiday travel season is right around the corner and with millions of Americans expected to travel for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, travel prices will be top of mind. A survey of Hopper users revealed that 41% of users traveling for the holidays are very concerned about how they will afford the travel they have already planned. While inflation and economic concerns continue to stress American’s wallets, holiday travelers are in luck. 

Domestic airfare for both Thanksgiving and Christmas has dropped compared to this time last year, with Thanksgiving flights -14% from last year and Christmas prices down 12% from last year. Prices won’t remain low for long, high demand for holiday travel and rising fuel prices will push prices up as the holidays approach so travelers should book now to get the best deals. 

This holiday season is set to be busy, especially with Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve falling over the weekend. Most holiday travelers (59%) are setting out to see and spend time with friends and family, while 33% of travelers plan to make a vacation out of their holiday travel. Christmas will attract the highest volume of travelers, with ⅔ of respondents traveling for the December holiday. 43% of Hopper users will travel for Thanksgiving, while a surprising 33% of users will also travel for New Year’s Eve celebrations! We’ve rounded up everything you need to know about holiday travel this year, as well as our tips for getting the best deals!

How to save this holiday season

  1. Start planning now:  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. Expect to book in the next 4 weeks! 

  2. Be flexible on travel dates: Save over $100 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 midweek following the holiday will get you the most bang for your buck.

  3. Book airfare by Saturday, October 14th: Airfare will remain low, 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.

Holiday Airfare

Thanksgiving Airfare & When to Fly?

Thanksgiving travelers are in luck this holiday season, with fares averaging $268 per ticket, down -14% from this time last year and down -7% from 2019 prices. International travelers will see price relief compared to last year, but should expect prices to remain high as they average well above pre pandemic levels. Airfare to Mexico and the Caribbean, popular regions for Thanksgiving getaways, remains 5% - 11% higher than pre pandemic with prices averaging between $425 - $500 per ticket. 

When to Fly?


Travelers looking to get the best prices for domestic Thanksgiving trips should plan to be flexible on their travel dates. Departing the week before Thanksgiving or on the Monday ahead of the holiday will save travelers the most. Savvy travelers will save 20% or $57 per ticket by departing on the Thursday before Thanksgiving (11/16)  instead of taking a weekend flight. While those more last minute travelers can save 13% or $37 per ticket by flying Monday the week of Thanksgiving (11/20). 

Following a weekend of turkey, football and shopping, airports will be packed on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. This is the most popular day to return for Thanksgiving travelers, and also the most expensive. Travelers returning on Sunday will pay a 40% premium, or $121 per ticket more than those travelers who return the following day, Monday. Skip the Sunday return and fly home on Black Friday, or Monday November 27th to pack on the savings.


Travelers looking to get the best prices for international Thanksgiving trips should plan to leave departure closer to the holiday. Departing Tuesday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving will get travelers the best deals, with average international fares 16% or $145 per ticket lower than departing Friday before the holiday week. 

As with domestic travelers, those grabbing their passports should plan to return after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, aiming for Monday or Tuesday arrivals. Travelers returning after the weekend will save an average of 20% off peak weekend fares, about $200 per ticket. 

Christmas Airfare & When to Fly

Airfare for Christmas trips are averaging $400 today, down $52 per ticket (-12%) from this time last year, but still significantly higher (+29%) than this time in 2019. Travelers headed to international destinations will feel budgets tighten, with fares to all destinations outside the Caribbean and Oceania higher than 2019, and 2022 prices. 

When to Fly?


The absolute lowest prices for Christmas travel are for flights departing on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Departing on these holiday dates will save travelers 26% off peak prices, about $114 per ticket on domestic routes. Fares will be highest for departures on the Friday before Christmas, December 22nd, as travelers look to make a long weekend out of the holiday. 

Tuesday, December 26th will be the most expensive day to return following the holidays, travelers will pay a 7%, or about $30 premium, to head home the day after Christmas celebrations. Return Thursday following the holiday to get the best deals, but don’t wait too long as prices will be higher for trips returning right before New Year’s Eve. 


International holiday travelers will also save by departing on the holidays themselves, with departures on Christmas Day 17% lower than departing on Friday ahead of the long weekend, about $246/ticket savings. For quick international trips, aim to return by Thursday or Friday to save the most. If extending trips through New Year’s Eve, plan to return midweek following the first of the year. 

When to Buy?

In a survey of Hopper users, 86% of holiday travelers said they plan to fly for one or both holidays this year. Despite this, just 13% of travelers have booked their flights, hotels and rental cars. Though jet fuel prices are currently averaging $3.15 per gallon, down 5.5% from this time last year, prices have risen by 50% from a low of $2.09 per gallon earlier this summer. As fuel prices continue to rise into the holiday season, travelers should expect holiday airfare to rise as well, with fewer deals available at the last minute than last year. 

In order to get the best prices for holiday travel, plan to book Thanksgiving and Christmas flights by October 14th

  • Prices for Thanksgiving trips have dropped by more than $60 per ticket since earlier this summer but prices won’t remain low forever. Prices will remain low through the first two weeks of October, before rising rapidly as the holiday approaches. Expect prices to spike by an average of $7 per day in the last 3 weeks before Thanksgiving, and by $30 per day or more in the last week before holiday departure dates. 

  • Prices for Christmas trips have dropped by $40 on average since this summer, but prices are not likely to drop much further. Prices will remain low through the end of October, before rising in November and December for last minute bookers. Last minute bookers can expect prices to spike by more than $40 per day in the last week ahead of Christmas departures. 

How to Prepare for Travel Disruptions?

The 2022 holiday travel season was marked by significant travel disruptions which impacted travelers around the United States. Weather related disruptions were snowballed by technology failures which resulted in thousands of travelers being stranded and some missing holiday celebrations all together. Though travelers can’t predict when a travel disruption will impact their travel, they can plan ahead to minimize the potential impact, both travel related and financial, of unexpected disruptions. 

How to prepare before you book: 

  • Take the first flight out: In general, flights departing after 9am are 2X more likely to be delayed than departures scheduled between 5-8am. To avoid travel disruption, fly as early in the morning as possible.

  • Fly direct: You will usually pay a premium to fly direct, rather than with stops, but it may be worth the cost for travelers concerned about getting to their destination on time. Missed connections following flight delays or cancellations can make getting to your destination on time challenging during busy travel periods marred by bad weather or other disruptions. 

  • Build in a buffer day: Travel a day early to your holiday celebrations if possible, that way if you’re impacted by a delay or cancellation you will have 24 hours to reschedule your travel and get onto your final destination. 

  • Add trip protection: If you’re flying this holiday season, you may want to consider adding trip protection like Hopper’s Flight Disruption Guarantee. If your flight is delayed, canceled or you miss a connection, you can immediately rebook on any flight, regardless of carrier. 

  • Book with flexibility: With recent disruptions at the airport, travelers may want to consider adding extra flexibility to their travel plans in the future in case they want to make last minute changes. Travelers should take advantage of plans like Cancel for Any Reason or Change for Any Reason available on the Hopper app. With these plans, Hopper pays the difference to the airline if you make changes or cancel your trip all together - with no additional cost to the traveler.

How to prepare before you head to the airport: 

  • Sign up for alerts & check flight status before you go to the airport. You’ll want to know about delays and cancellations as early as possible. On most U.S. carriers, passengers can sign up for text, email, and/or in-app notifications about any changes to their itinerary including delay and cancellations. 

  • Know what options you have available: Know what other flights are headed to your destination the same day as your trip in case you’re disrupted and need to get on another flight. Be sure to check airline policies, many carriers will waive change fees if there is a weather advisory or give compensation/travel credit if your flight is canceled within a few hours of departure.

What to do if you are impacted by travel disruptions: 

  • Multi-task. As soon as you learn of a disruption, hop in line to speak with a customer service agent in your terminal. At the same time, try to change your flight yourself in the airline’s app and/or call the airline’s customer service call center. Oftentimes you can reach an agent via phone before an agent at the airport can get to you. Sometimes you can even reebok yourself on the airlines own app! 

  • Consider alternate airports. If you’re flying out of a major city with multiple airports, check out flights still scheduled to depart that may get you onto your destination more quickly. If you’re stranded in cities like New York, Chicago, and Dallas, your ticket home may be just a train or Uber ride away. 

  • Pack your patience. It’s impossible to predict travel disruptions but we should expect there will be more of them during the busiest travel weeks of the year. With more passengers departing from airports over these holiday weeks than usual, everything from backups on the tarmac to bad weather can impact your travel plans. Pack your patience and plan ahead to make sure you’re prepared for anything unexpected. 

Top Destinations

Top Destinations for Thanksgiving 2023

Top Destinations for Christmas 2023

Rental Car Prices 

With more than one in five holiday travelers planning to drive for one or both holidays this year, rental car and gas prices will be top of mind! 

Car rentals for Thanksgiving are currently averaging $42 per day, down -17% from $52 per day at this time last year. Most Thanksgiving travelers are looking for a 5 day rental to make a long weekend out of the holiday. Rentals for Christmas are currently averaging $53 per day, in line with prices at this time last year. Most Christmas travelers are also looking for a 5 day rental, likely due to the holiday falling over a long weekend similar to last Christmas. Though gas prices have improved from summer 2022 highs, prices have risen gradually throughout this year. Today gas prices are about 13% higher than this time last year, and increasing each week. Travelers should budget for potentially higher prices as the holidays approach. 

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. 

Chicago, Orlando, Las Vegas and Miami are currently the most searched for pick up airports for holiday travel this year. These top cities 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! 


Almost half of holiday travelers this year plan to stay in a hotel, while 19% plan to stay in a rental home. Hotel rates for Thanksgiving stays are currently averaging $206 per night nationally, while prices for Christmas stays are averaging $233/night. 

Booking at the last minute for hotels can save you the most over the holidays if you’re headed to a big city with thousands of hotel rooms available. 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. 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.

If you’re planning a getaway vacation for the holidays to a leisure destination like Cancun, Honolulu or Miami 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 and hotels in these destinations can often sell out over holiday weekends. 

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