SAN FRANCISCO, CA--(Marketwired - September 06, 2016) - Americans planning to travel for Thanksgiving or Christmas this year should book air travel at the six-week "sweet-spot" if they want to avoid paying top dollar to the nation's most popular destinations.
That's one of the findings of a new analysis released today by Hipmunk, the fastest, easiest way to plan travel, which examines the optimal time to buy plane tickets to lock in the best prices for the November and December holidays.
If budget-conscious travelers are heading to one of the nation's smaller airports, however, they'll need to make those purchases even farther in advance -- more than two months out -- to dodge taking the worst hits to the wallet.
"When we crunched the numbers, we surmised that six weeks out, which means the week of October 3rd for Thanksgiving and November 7th for Christmas, will be the general 'point of no return' this year when it comes to airfare," said Dr. Chris Miller, Hipmunk Data Scientist. "During those two weeks, an average traveler will likely pay about 14 percent less than the most expensive holiday airfare available this year to the same place. But that's just an aggregate average. Depending on the destinations, savings will range from 10 to more than 50 percent. Once you're within the six-week window, prices will take some big jumps."
Book flights to smaller cities even earlier for better deals.
Miller noted that the six-week rule doesn't necessarily apply to tickets on less-traveled routes, meaning flights to airports not among the 20 most popular. In those cases, travelers should plan to book by the week of September 5th for Thanksgiving and October 12th for Christmas, when they'll likely save about 17 percent and 15 percent, respectively, on the most expensive tickets this year.
If they miss those lead times (and have nerves of steel) they can wait until the weeks of November 14th for Thanksgiving and December 12th for Christmas, when airfares will likely drop to 11 percent and 18 percent less than peak prices for Thanksgiving and Christmas, respectively.
Even with those optimal advance purchases, travelers to smaller markets will contend with bigger price tags. Based on historical data, holiday airfares will be, on average, 18 percent higher for Thanksgiving and 20 percent higher for Christmas to markets outside the top 20 than to those within it.
"Airfares to less-traveled airports tend to fluctuate more than those to the big airports. It's a good habit to set up a fare alert like one available through Hipmunk so that you are notified when flight prices change," said Roxy Young, SVP of Marketing at Hipmunk.
For tables that show the average Thanksgiving and Christmas six-week advance-purchase airfares to each of the top 20 most popular U.S. airports, and for other holiday airfare details, including an infographic that displays the savings for six-week advance ticket purchases to the most popular holiday destinations, visit the Hipmunk blog here.
Thanksgiving Methodology: Hipmunk analyzed the median historical RT booking prices of US destinations at Thanksgiving, for flights departing within the US on November 23-26, 2015, and returning November 27-29, 2015.
Christmas Methodology: Hipmunk analyzed the median historical RT booking prices of US destinations at Christmas, for flights departing within the US on Dec 21-25, 2015, and returning Nov. 26-27, 2015).
Hipmunk is the fastest, easiest way to plan travel. The site and mobile apps help save time and money by comparing top travel sites to show the perfect flight or hotel at the lowest price. Hipmunk offers the most comprehensive travel search, from commercial flights, trains, and charter flights to hotels and vacation rentals through Airbnb. The unique display makes it easy to visually compare results to choose the best option. Try Hipmunk's new A.I. powered personal travel agent, Hello Hipmunk, to get instant planning and booking recommendations by sending an email to email@example.com.
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