Still waiting till November to make your holiday travel plans? Now’s the time to rethink your strategy. According to our Chief Economist, Jake Bouvrie, “The outdated advice to book 60 days in advance is not always the most reliable – the best time to book your flight is route specific. It depends on where you’re going and where you’re flying from and our data can help with that.” Don’t squander your gift money on tickets home… unless you consider your presence to be the present. Here are 5 things to keep in mind if you actually want to save money on holiday travel this year

Domestic holiday travel is cheaper than it was last year.

Airfare, hotel and rental car rates in the US are all down compared to the 2022 holiday season*. That’s the good news. The bad news is that you’ll need to prepare yourself to be interrogated by your relatives who want to know what you’re doing with your life. At least you can splurge on the nice bottle of wine?

Use this strategy to book smarter, not harder. 

Knowing when to book doesn’t have to be a whole thing. For Thanksgiving travel, our data shows that you should get a good price if you book 56ish days out**. Try to set a reminder for yourself to book towards the end of September.

As for Christmas or NYE trips, you’re going to want a more precise answer. Check out our Best Time to Travel tool – we recently revamped it, just in time for holiday travel. It’ll calculate the cheapest days to travel and tell you when you should book, based on your origin and holiday destination.

We’ll say it louder for the people in the back: arrive early.

Expect traffic at more places than the highway. Hubs like LAX, SFO, BOS, ORD, JFK and DEN are scoped to be some of the busiest airports for Thanksgiving and Christmas***. If it were us, we’d add an extra hour or two to our usual airport time. Or, you can try to avoid this traffic altogether by departing from a different hub. Check the box for “add nearby airports” when you search for a flight to see all your other options.

Be choosy about which days you travel.

The date you depart for your trip matters. If you can, try to head out for Thanksgiving early – the cheapest day to fly domestically is on November 20th (3 days before the holiday). When heading out for Christmas, try to travel closer to the 24th – the cheapest day to fly within the US is Christmas Eve.*

Turn up the heat for the New Year.

Once you’ve had your fill of the cold for Christmas, haul your holly jolly self somewhere warm for NYE. According to our numbers, some of the top trending New Year’s destinations include Cancún, Orlando, San Juan and Honolulu****. All these hot spots have average temps around 80 degrees during December, so you can thaw out before returning to reality.

Haven’t talked with your fam about where you’re spending the holidays quite yet? Here’s your sign to start the conversation. In the meantime, go ahead and use our Best Time To Travel: Holiday Edition and set Price Alerts so you know exactly when to book this season.


*KAYAK considered flight searches between 2/10/2023 and 8/9/2023 for travel between 11/17/2023 and 1/3/2024. For year over year comparative data, search dates between 2/11/2022 and 8/10/2022 for travel dates between 11/18/2022 and 1/4/2023 were used. 

**Insights regarding the best time to book are derived from KAYAK’s internal historical search data for the Thanksgiving travel period, which encompasses departure dates between 11/18/2022 and 11/24/2-22, and return dates between 11/24/2022and 11/28/2022. KAYAK compiled and consolidated search data for each day within a range of 7 to 120 days from the planned departure date (spanning from approximately 4 months in advance to as shortly as a week before departure). The median of the roundtrip flight prices for economy class for a single passenger was then calculated. The day that presented the minimum median price was identified as the best time to book flight tickets for the particular trip.

***KAYAK considered US airports with the highest search counts for both departing and arriving flights for search dates 2/10/2023 – 8/9/2023. For Thanksgiving travel, travel dates between 11/17 – 11/26/2023 were used. For Christmas travel, travel dates between 12/21/2023 – 1/3/2023 were used.

**** KAYAK considered flight destinations with the greatest year over year increase in searches for search dates 3/1/2023 – 8/31/2023 and travel dates 12/26/2023 – 1/3/2024. For year over year comparison, search dates between 3/1/2022 – 8/31/2022 for travel dates 12/26/2022 – 1/3/2023 were used.

About the author

KAYAK Since 2004, KAYAK has been revolutionising the travel industry. Metasearch for travel? No one was doing it. Until we did. Today, we process billions of queries across our platforms each year for travel information, helping millions of travellers around the globe make confident decisions. With every query, KAYAK searches hundreds of travel sites to show travellers the information they need to find the right flights, hotels, hire cars and holiday packages.

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