How to find holiday flight deals even as ticket prices rise

Are you planning to go home for the holidays? It could be more expensive than usual this year as airfares soar.

A forecast released this week by the travel booking app Hopper estimates plane ticket prices are likely to peak in five years around Christmas and Thanksgiving thanks to variables such as fuel costsincreased demand and reduced airline capacity.

Travelers who hope book flights for Thanksgiving can expect an average domestic ticket price of $350. Prices have increased by 43% compared to last year. Late November international flights, meanwhile, are up 41% from 2021, averaging almost $800 a ticket.

For Christmas, it’s starting to look a lot like madness. According to current estimates, travelers can expect to pay an average of $463 for domestic tickets – ticket prices are 39% higher than last year. International plane ticket will cost consumers a modest $1,300 per ticket.

How to find flight deals for the holidays

After a few difficult years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, travel is finally bouncing back in a major way.

Holiday flight prices are currently down from their highs in August, which is typical when summer travel demand drops. It is normal for ticket prices to increase during the holiday season and holiday demand, but a stronger seasonal drop than usual compared to this summer aerial chaos means now is the best time to book.

“More than 50% of Americans told us they planned to travel this holiday season, and 70% said they planned to see friends and family,” says Andrew Heritage, senior economist at Hopper. “People are feeling comfortable going places again. So there is extremely high travel demand, similar to what we have seen this summer.

But don’t expect to find fares at very low prices either. Heritage says airfares are still historically high due to the same staffing and capacity issues that airlines have struggled with all year, not to mention the cost of jet fuel.

Hopper advises watching travel prices through Oct. 20, when pre-holiday price spikes typically hit. Travel advice website The vacationer also recommends booking as early as possible when it comes to major vacations – even months in advance, if possible, depending on where you’re going.

“International flights tend to be cheaper closer to the opening of the booking window. Domestic flights are more expensive when they are released and tend to drop after a few months,” The Vacationer said in his Travel Guide for Thanksgiving and Christmas 2022. “For this reason, you should aim to book international flights earlier than domestic flights, and this is especially true for holidays.”

Hopper says travelers often use the shorter Thanksgiving workweek to make a longer international trip. Departing the day before Thanksgiving — which falls on Nov. 24 this year — can save you an average of $100 on peak airfares. Round-trip flights are, on average, $162 cheaper if you return the following Monday rather than right after the holidays.

The most expensive days to fly in the fall are December 22-24, with average prices over $500 per domestic ticket. If you’re looking to save some money, Hopper’s data suggests you try to leave on the Monday before Christmas (December 19). Flights are usually around $120 less that day.

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