The Best Time to Book Holiday Travel? Unfortunately, Right Now.

Expect a "huge surge" in travel and the highest prices for plane tickets in "more than five years," according to an expert

An airport with a decorated Christmas tree in the foreground and a flight departures display visible in the background
Even if you don't want to think about the holiday season yet, you might want to.

It’s October, which means, for most discerning American adults, it’s almost Halloween. However, for others — and we all know someone who fits the profile — it means that it’s almost Christmas. (To be clear, it isn’t. At the time of this writing, Christmas is in fact 83 days away.)

What the current proximity to the holiday season does mean is that now is the time to book holiday travel, if for no other reason than to avoid having to dip into your 401(k) to cover the cost of airfare. Because, in case the previous nine months were no indication, it’s about to get real expensive.

“We’re expecting to see a huge surge in travel over this holiday season,” Hayley Berg, lead economist for the travel website Hopper, told Yahoo Finance. “We know that travelers have pent-up demand for holiday travel traditions, visiting family, vacations, and we’re expecting to see a very busy holiday season. And with that super high demand, we’re expecting to see the highest prices, especially for Christmas, that we’ve seen in more than five years.”

For context, by Hopper’s own estimate, the site estimates the average price of a domestic ticket will cost around $350 round trip for Thanksgiving and $463 for Christmas. Further, international round trip tickets will be going for closer to $795.

As Travel Pulse points out, the holiday travel season is meant to refer to the six weeks starting just before Thanksgiving and lasting just after the New Year. That said, according to Berg, the trick is to not try to travel too closely to any given holiday.

“If you’re traveling for Thanksgiving, your best bet is to travel on Monday before Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving Day if you can,” she said. “Do not try to fly home on that weekend after Thanksgiving. Those will be the busiest airports and the highest prices.”

And, again, the earlier you book, the better.

“That means it’s harder to find deals,” she added. “If you’re not planning far in advance using a price monitoring tool, it’s harder to find those one-time price drops or sales that are going to help you get a great deal.”

That last sentiment is one that applies to just about every aspect of holiday travel, too. For example, the window in which to obtain a new passport should you need one is also coming to a close. Per an ABC 7 News report, it’s already taking longer than the typical 10-week period for applications to be processed. Consequently, passport agencies are advising applicants to pay the extra $60 to get an expedited passport. Children, especially, are likely to see delays in getting their passports, as both parents must be present at the appointment, or one parent must be in possession of a signed notarized release from the other. If you’re really tight on time, you can pay an additional $18.32 for one-day shipping once it’s been issued.

All of this to say: Yes, the holidays are still a little ways out yet, but the time to think about your holiday travel plans is literally right this second. Your wallet — and your blood pressure — will thank you for it later.


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