The Best Time to Book Your Flights for the Holidays Is Right Now, According to Travel Experts

Not exactly a direct flight.
Not exactly a direct flight. / (Background) amtitus/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images; (Plane) bounward/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images

At this time of year, most people haven’t even decided on Halloween costumes, let alone started holiday shopping. But shopping for holiday flights is something you should do sooner than you might think.

“The best fares probably were a month or two ago and now most of the fares are just decent but exceedingly likely to get a lot more expensive in the coming months,” Scott’s Cheap Flights founder Scott Keyes told Travel + Leisure.

Travel + Leisure also looked at Google Flights data and determined that the sweet spot for budget-friendly Thanksgiving flights is between 36 and 72 days out—so you should probably book this month, to be on the safe side. Though Christmas flights may see a price dip somewhere roughly between three and 12 weeks before your travel date, experts typically don’t recommend playing the waiting game in the lead-up to the holiday season.

“My advice to travelers now is that if you find flights with a convenient schedule and fares that fit your budget, book them,” airline and travel analyst Henry Harteveldt told The Points Guy. “Don’t try to game the system.”

That said, the current travel landscape just might allow you to have your cake and eat it, too. The pandemic prompted many airlines to eliminate fees for canceling and changing flights, and some have decided to make those policies permanent. The specifics vary by airline, destination, and cabin class. If you’re flying basic economy with American Airlines or Delta, for example, your tickets are neither changeable nor refundable. But if you book a higher-class ticket and/or fly with a different airline—like Southwest—you could potentially cancel or swap those tickets for cheaper ones that pop up later in the season.

“It gives you an opportunity to have a ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ situation with the airlines that before this was pretty rare,” Keyes said.

Wondering how else you can minimize holiday travel stress? Here are some tips.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]