Traveling back home for the holidays can be stressful. Especially when flights are scarce, airports are busy and prices are high.
The latest air travel data from the TSA shows just how busy the airports are during the lead-up to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.
There’s only a limited number of flights available for these holidays. With everyone rushing to book their seats, it’s crucial for you to reserve yours ASAP so that you can get the best deals.
I know from experience that some days are better than others for flying in and out of airports.
How Far Ahead Should You Book Your Holiday Flights?
Booking your Thanksgiving, Christmas and, New Year’s travel well in advance is recommended. Same advice goes for Labor weekend. Speaking of Labor weekend, see my article on the best airports for labor day travel.
I advise that you book local/domestic flights at least 1 to 3 months in advance. Even more, if you can.
If traveling internationally, try to book 6 to 9 months ahead. This is always an advantage on those longer flights overseas. You’ll probably enjoy more comfort on the flight too if you can get the best times and seating to suit.
Like with most other things in life, it’s first come, first served.
Both paid and free tickets can be booked 11 months in advance for both domestic and international travel, but domestic tickets should not be bought too early. International flights typically cost less as the booking window gets closer to its opening.
When they are first issued, domestic flights are more expensive, but after a few months, the cost usually decreases. Because of this, it’s a good idea to book foreign flights earlier than local ones, especially around the holidays.
Booking Dates for Thanksgiving Flights
I always advise friends and family to book Thanksgiving flights before Halloween. Ideally, if possible, in August. Obviously, the longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes to find a bargain.
Christmas (book before Thanksgiving)
Travelers at the very least should be booking Christmas flights in late August or early September. For even cheaper flights, I really recommend June or July if you can. Once you reach November, you’re going to end up paying much more. And not only that, you’ll have a poor selection of flight schedules to choose from. Worse still, you might have to book additional connecting flights.
Holiday Travel: Best and Worst Days to Fly
Given that Thanksgiving always falls on a Thursday, it makes the best and worst days to travel a bit more predictable than other holidays.
Air travel during Thanksgiving is increasing. This is why I’ve compiled the best and worst days to fly to get back home for Thanksgiving.
Best Travel Dates for Thanksgiving 2023
Worst Travel Dates for Thanksgiving 2023
As you can see from my table above, the best days to travel for Thanksgiving this year is the Monday or Tuesday of the week of Thanksgiving.
The worst day to travel home for Thanksgiving is the day before. It’ll be crazy in airports.
Traveling back, you should consider the day after Thanksgiving (might be too soon) or the following Monday or Tuesday.
The worst day to return back from Thanksgiving is the Sunday after Thanksgiving because it’ll be the busiest day.
Here are my recommendations for flying back for Christmas.
Best Travel Dates for Christmas 2023
Worst Travel Dates for Christmas 2023
A huge number of American adults plan to fly each Christmas. We know that Christmas Day falls on a different weekday each year so this makes it a bit trickier to predict the best and worst days. However, I have done my best.
You’ll need to take college, school, and work dates into account when planning to fly just before Christmas.
From my own experience, I found December 23rd to be the worst day to fly for Christmas. I did tell myself, never again!
It might sound crazy, but Christmas Eve (a little bit later in the day) is usually a bit quieter in the airports. It might not be ideal for you if you have far to travel and have to take connecting flights.
Here are the dates I recommend for New Year’s travel this year.
Best Travel Dates for New Year's Eve 2023 / New Year's Day 2024
Worst Travel Dates for New Year's Eve 2023 / New Year's Day 2024
For New Year’s Eve, I think you should consider traveling on the 28th or 29th of December. Avoid the 30th of December and the morning of New Year’s Eve.
If you’re not traveling too far, you might actually get away with flying in a bit later on New Year’s Eve although, you’d be cutting it tight if you want to make the countdown to the new year.
Ultimately, everyone’s requirements will be different. People have to factor in family and work commitments and of course, flight availability.
Now that you know the best days to fly for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, I want to share some further tips for how to bring your travel costs down for the holidays.
Tips To Reduce Travel Costs for the Holiday Season
- Travel at off-peak times: Instead of traveling on the actual holiday, think about doing it the days before or after. Lowered accommodation and travel costs are frequently the outcome of this.
- Alternative forms of transportation: instead of flying, think about taking a bus, rail, or even a car to get where you’re going. These alternatives can be significantly less expensive than flying, especially if you can carpool with others.
- Keep an eye out for special specials and discounts that hotels, airlines, and other travel agencies may be offering. You can keep up with these bargains by subscribing to email newsletters or following your favored businesses on social media.
- Be flexible with your vacation plans; instead of booking a hotel, think about other locations or staying with friends or family. To discover more economical lodging, you can also consider using vacation rental websites or house swap services.
- Book in advance: To benefit from lower rates and to guarantee that you may secure the desired flights and hotels, plan your trip early.
- Be prepared to make concessions: To save money, think about booking a cheaper hotel or flying into a different airport.
- Look for packages: Take into account reserving your accommodations, transportation, and flights all at once. This frequently leads to considerable cost reductions.
- Utilize rewards points or miles: If you have acquired points or miles through a frequent flyer program or credit card, you might want to use them to cover your trip costs.
- Compare costs to obtain the greatest offer. Spend some time comparing prices from various airlines, lodging establishments, and travel agencies.