Procrastinators rejoice! Although Thanksgiving travel is expensive, you won't pay much more if you wait. You only have to book more than 10 days ahead. Domestic round-trip prices rise less than 5% up to 10 days before departure and then spike sharply.
Good news for procrastinators. Thanksgiving travel is expensive, but you won't pay much more if you wait to buy. You only have to book more than 10 days ahead. Domestic round-trip prices rise less than 5% up to 10 days before departure and then spike sharply.
Prices for Thanksgiving travel start high because the airlines know travelers have little flexibility. On the plus side, average prices stay almost flat until ten days before departure. Prices for Thanksgiving this year have trended between 5-10% below last year, similar to the year-over-year price decline for all travel dates that we've reported elsewhere. Prices have dipped recently thanks to broad September airfare sales, but we expect them to begin trending slightly upward.
Figure 1: When to Buy Thanksgiving Flights based on 2014 & 2015 data
It's tough to find a deal around Thanksgiving. This chart illustrates the average of round-trip domestic “good deal" pricing based on departure and return date. For example, the blue bar for Tuesday, November 24th shows that the typical “good deal" for all trips departing on November 24th and returning on or after Thanksgiving is about $500.
Flying on Thanksgiving Day will be cheapest, of course, as demand is low. But that's not always desirable. Aside from traveling on Thanksgiving Day, the cheapest round-trip options are for Monday, November 23rd returning Friday, November 27th.
The most expensive day to fly is Sunday (which is typical for the rest of the year). Most flyers can save a few bucks by opting to fly on Friday, Saturday or Monday instead.
Figure 2: Average of round-trip domestic “good deal" pricing based on departure and return date
We compared “good deal" round-trip prices for Thanksgiving to prices earlier in the fall to measure a “Thanksgiving premium." Averaging across all trips to a given origin, we found the most expensive places to fly home for the holidays. For example, a round-trip to Dallas (Love Field) for Thanksgiving averages more than three times the price (+223%) of a trip earlier in the fall. Note that some of this premium might be due to a different pattern of travel to the destination during the holidays.
Although Thanksgiving travel is more expensive for all major U.S. destinations, the lowest premiums are found for West Coast destinations, along with Newark and San Juan, Puerto Rico:
We also looked at the relative “popularity" of each destination, comparing how many airfare searches we saw for Thanksgiving trips compared to general fall travel. It makes sense that the domestic destinations with the biggest relative popularity for Thanksgiving are places you might not otherwise think to spend a vacation:
Although rumors swirl about discounted international travel over Thanksgiving, our analysis finds that on average the rest of the world is not “on sale" from the U.S. over Thanksgiving, presumably because of the huge demands of domestic travel on airline infrastructure. On average, international destinations are about 20% more expensive over the holidays with the cheapest on average being the following:
Here are a few individual routes that do look cheap for Thanksgiving:
The Hopper app analyzes billions of flight prices a day to provide advice on when to fly and buy. Hopper predicts price changes for your trip, and notifies you when to book.