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Americans: Stop what you’re doing and book your holiday flights right now

October 1, 2013
October 1, 2013
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You’re still here? Go buy your tickets—go!

Data analyzed by online flight-booking service Kayak indicate that early October is the best time to book US domestic flights for travel around Christmas or New Year’s. And if you’re traveling around Thanksgiving, the moment has already passed.

Booking flights in advance will typically yield lower fares than waiting until the last minute, but book too far in advance, and you’ll miss out on the best deal. The trick is finding the sweet spot. Airlines are usually of no help, but by examining searches for holiday flights last year, we can try to predict the best time to book this year.

For all three trips—around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s—fares fell consistently from July to October. But after that, the trends diverged.

Fares for Christmas trips hit their lowest price on October 11, at an average of $421 for round-trip flights within the US. Then they rose exponentially from there. A last-minute booking cost $216 more than the October low point.

New Year’s trips followed a similar path, with their lowest average fare on October 11, but the premium for booking late was less significant—34.1% higher, compared with 51.3% for Christmas trips.

Airline prices for travel during the American Thanksgiving holiday remained much flatter. From September to the end of October, fares varied by only $17, or 4.2% of the average fare during the period.

All of the travel periods had accelerated fare increases in the seven days before departure.

International flights from the US show a wholly different trend. Fares for all three trips make a steady increase until the departure date, then accelerate about a month before the planned travel. In other words: Book those trips as soon as possible.

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