Fall is here, and you know what that means? That’s right, before you know it the holidays will be upon us.
Like every year, many people will be traveling over the holidays. Whether your children or grandchildren are coming home from college for a long Thanksgiving weekend, or you are traveling across the country to spend time with the in-laws over Christmas, there’s a good chance that you’re going to book a flight.
Since millions of Americans will be traveling during the holidays, it’s extremely important to plan ahead so you can find the best deals.
Booking holiday travel at the wrong time could end up costing you big time. It’s a mistake that you don’t want to make.
That’s why we’re going to tell you some tricks of the trade to find the best prices on holiday airfare.
Secret formula to calculate airfare pricing
Knowing when to buy your holiday airfare is key to getting the best value. Before we get into the timing of your purchase, let’s discuss the secret formula that airlines don’t want you to know about. Calculating your trip’s cost with this formula will show if you’re getting a good deal.
According to the Adobe Digital Index, “To determine whether the price you’re seeing for any domestic round-trip airfare is a good deal, multiply the round-trip miles (airport to airport) by $.032, and add $230 to get the average price. For international round-trip airfare, multiply the round-trip miles by $.08 and add $200.” If your answer is less than your plane ticket, then you might be paying more than average.
For example, it’s 1,710 miles from Denver International Airport (DEN) to Miami International Airport (MIA), so the round-trip miles would be 3,420. Using the formula, (3,420 x $.032) + $230 = $339.44, this is your target price.
According to a quick Google Flights search, a round-trip ticket leaving DEN the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and returning the Tuesday after could be as little as $256. (If you return one day later, you could get it for $182.) Going with the formula, this would be a great deal.
(Tip within a tip: Click here to learn how to use Google Flights.)
Image: Example of round-trip flight from DEN to MIA using Google Flights.
Now that you know how to calculate the average cost for airfare to compare it against prices you’re about to pay, you need to know when it’s the best time to book your flight. Keep reading and we’ll give you all the details.
When is the best time to get the lowest airfare for holiday travel?
As we said earlier, booking your holiday travel at the wrong time could be a costly mistake. That’s why it’s important to plan ahead and know when it’s the best time to buy.
According to Expedia flight data, the best time to purchase airfare for Thanksgiving weekend is between 61 and 90 days out. If that’s true, September 23, 2017, was the last day to save up to 10 percent off air travel during that timeframe.
If you didn’t book airfare during that time, you need to start looking for flights immediately. If you wait to book until the last minute, most likely you’ll pay over 20 percent more than the average cost of a ticket.
Expedia’s VP of global communications said, “Timing is a big factor in getting a good deal on airfare. People typically know pretty far in advance whether they’re going to travel for the holidays, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on prices months out.”
The day of the week that you actually travel can also make a difference in the price you pay. It’s best to avoid flying the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after. Those are usually the busiest days for travel and the most expensive to fly.
It’s better to search for flights on the Tuesday before and returning on the Monday after Thanksgiving for the best deals. Flying on the holiday itself, Thanksgiving or Christmas Day, could also save you some money.
Another trick that can save you some cash is to look for flights at unpopular times throughout the day. You’ll most likely find better prices on flights close to dawn or overnight red-eyes.
Now that you’re making those Thanksgiving travel plans, don’t forget about Christmas. Expedia flight data show that the best deals will be found between 14 and 20 days prior to departure during the Christmas holiday.
If you wait until the last minute, it could cost you over 15 percent more than the average ticket price. Your best move is doing a Google Flights search and utilizing its price tracker. Click here to learn how to use the Google Flights price tracker.
We’ve previously written about other ways to get the lowest airfare online. Click here to learn how to search for flights incognito and buying tickets on the right day. You’ll be glad that you did.
Don’t forget to share this tip with family and friends so they can join in on the savings. Simply click the share button on the left side of the article to post on Facebook or any other social media site.
Do airlines track you to give you higher fares? Great question!
When it comes to booking flights, in particular, you can see prices going up in real time as you’re searching airfares online. That price surge is so common that it has become a bit of travel lore.