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Here's the Best Time to Book a Flight for EVERY Holiday

Using data from the airfare app Hopper, we help you figure out when to book your flights — in general and around specific holidays.
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If you're planning any holiday travel this year, it pays to plan in advance. Flying is the fastest way to get to your next vacation destination, but unlike most products, getting a good deal on airfare isn't just about waiting for a great sale; it's about buying at the right time.

To find out the best time to buy, we talked to the travel experts at Hopper, which analyzes flight prices to predict when ticket costs will hit rock bottom. Whether you're planning to spend St. Patrick's Day in Boston or heading home for Christmas, you can download the Hopper app for iOS or Android and set up a trip watch to monitor prices for your 2018 vacation. And if you haven't decided on a travel date, Hopper's price data tells us what to expect from travel pricing in the next year.

Let's take a look at the holiday airfare data and see just when you should buy.

What's a Good Holiday Flight Price?

Based on last year's data, expect to pay about $280 round trip for a good deal on domestic holiday travel (as long as you buy your ticket at least 30 days in advance). That's the same average price as the year before, and though some holiday flight prices went up or down, nothing moved more than $20 in either direction. In short, you shouldn't expect to pay more for airfare this year.

SEE ALSO: 5 Ways to Save on Your Next Flight

However, that will depend on when you travel. Be aware that some travel dates cost more than others. Bigger holidays like Christmas and New Year's Eve mean more travelers and higher prices. Last year, both of these holidays cost about 15% more than other travel dates, so don't expect that $280 rate for every trip.

How Soon Should You Buy?

While every trip is a little different — when and where you're traveling both impact trip price — there are some general trends. For most holidays, you want to buy tickets at least a month in advance, though you'll need to book earlier to get the best prices on more popular travel dates (Easter, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve).

SEE ALSO: All the Latest Deals on Flights, Hotels & Vacation Packages

Typically, prices are fairly steady up to 30 days out. After that, however, prices will start to rise rapidly. On average, prices will increase:

  • $1.75 per day from 30 days to 14 days before departure
  • $9 per day from 14 days to seven days before departure
  • More than $11 per day from seven days before departure until the departure date

Even though prices will start climbing modestly, at only a couple of dollars a day, when you're down to two weeks before your trip, prices will begin to skyrocket. And for popular holidays like Christmas and New Year's, prices start rising even sooner, with those modest price increases kicking in about two months in advance.

For most holiday trips, you want to buy tickets at least a month in advance, though you'll need to book earlier to get the best prices on more popular travel dates.

Regardless of when you're traveling, the longer you wait, the higher prices will go. So save those dollars and start planning your next trip now.

But what can you expect for specific holidays? We have a rundown of 2018's biggest holidays, complete with average "good deal" prices and the best times to buy.

Flight Price Data for 11 Major Holidays

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Date in 2018: Monday, January 15

Good deal price: $229

When to buy: At least three weeks before departure

Presidents' Day

Date in 2018: Monday, February 19

Good deal price: $247

When to buy: At least three weeks before departure

St. Patrick's Day

Date in 2018: Saturday, March 17

Good deal price: $254

When to buy: At least three weeks before departure

Easter

Date in 2018: Sunday, April 1

Good deal price: $281

When to buy: At least six weeks before departure

Memorial Day

Date in 2018: Monday, May 28

Good deal price: $271

When to buy: At least three weeks before departure

Independence Day

Date in 2018: Wednesday, July 4

Good deal price: $314

When to buy: At least three weeks before departure

Labor Day

Date in 2018: Monday, September 3

Good deal price: $245

When to buy: At least three weeks before departure

Columbus Day

Date in 2018: Monday, October 8

Good deal price: $225

When to buy: Three to six weeks before departure

Thanksgiving

Date in 2018: Thursday, November 22

Good deal price: $271

When to buy: At least four weeks before departure

Christmas

Date in 2018: Tuesday, December 25

Good deal price: $324

When to buy: At least eight weeks before departure

New Year's Eve

Date in 2018: Monday, December 31

Good deal price: $324

When to buy: At least eight weeks before departure

Don't Forget About Hidden Fees

Before you click that "buy" button, be aware that the ticket price you see may not be the ticket price you get. Airlines love to tack on extra fees, and paying for luggage (expect at least $25 each way) or better seats (expect at least $10 each way) can add quite a bit to your price.

When you're looking for a good deal, be sure to check fees to find out what your ticket will actually cost. And if a particular flight is laden with too many extra fees, consider buying the next fare category. While a higher fare category will certainly cost you, it could include extras like free baggage or reserved seating that will save you cash in the long run. While it adds an extra step to your cost comparisons, it's usually well worth the effort.

Readers, how far in advance do you book your holiday flights? What are some of the best airfare deals you've scored? Let us know in the comments below!


Contributing Writer

Originally working in IT, Elizabeth now writes on tech, gaming, and general consumer issues. Her articles have appeared in USA Today, Time, AOL, PriceGrabber, and more. She has been one of DealNews' most regular contributors since 2013, researching everything from vacuums to renters insurance to help consumers.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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