For two years, Americans have been reluctant to travel during the holidays because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But in a step marking America’s return to normal, the number of trips is expected to increase this year.
More than half of Americans say they plan to travel for Thanksgiving or Christmas, according to Hopper, a website that tracks airline fares.
Thanks to increased demand, higher fuel costs and fewer scheduled flights, airfares are likely to be more expensive than for any holiday season in the past five years, Hopper says.
Right now, the average airfare for domestic travel during the Thanksgiving holiday is $350, up 22% from 2019, the last holiday season before COVID-19 hit. International airfares are selling for an average of $795, also up 22%.
If you plan to book for Thanksgiving, you should probably do so by mid-October. Hopper notes that domestic fares for the holiday peaked at $400 in August and dropped in September, as they traditionally do every year. Fares are now 9% below their peak and are expected to remain there until the second half of October, when they are expected to rise again.
For Christmas, domestic fares average $463, up nearly 33%. For international travel, fares average $1,300, up 26%. Fares were higher in August — at $500 for domestic travel — and have fallen 3% to 5% since then.
Hopper urges travelers to book their flights as soon as possible. According to the rate tracker:
“Today, a smaller proportion of travelers are planning Christmas and Thanksgiving trips than at this time in 2019 or 2018. As airlines fly fewer flights this year and demand is expected to soar for vacation trips, Americans need to start planning their vacation trips. now!”
Hopper says your best bet is to book a flight no later than the week of October 10.
Those who are flexible and willing to travel on less popular dates can save up to $300 on peak airfares, Hopper says. For the biggest savings:
- Fly on Monday of Thanksgiving week and return any day of the following week.
- Fly on the Monday or Tuesday before the Christmas weekend and return on the Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday of the following week.
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