The cheapest time to book flights for Thanksgiving travel is 31-90 days out, and 21-30 days out for Christmas. Travelers who booked during these windows in 2017 saved an average of 10% on holiday fares according to Expedia.
The optimal window to book flights for Thanksgiving is now through October 22. For Christmas travel it is somewhat later: October 26 through December 4, at least according to Expedia. Our calculation is November 25-December 4. If you wait until 0-6 days out you will probably pay 10-20% above the average ticket price.
You have more flexibility when it comes to finding a hotel for the holidays. Booking a hotel closer to your trip, 0-6 days out, could save you 20-30%. This is an instance where waiting until the last minute can result in a lower average daily rate as some hoteliers aim to fill unsold rooms.
However, be aware that there is no fixed pattern. Expedia fails to include this warning, but the optimal window in 2018 may differ compared to previous years. There is simply no magic number of days in advance that is the best to book. Nonetheless, there are some general rules that do hold up, but certainly not during busy holidays.
The usual pattern of how fares change is that they typically start off high, slowly come down, and start to climb again a few weeks before flight time. There is usually a particularly sharp increase 14 days before the flight.
Airlines tend to display a selection of the seats that are available and mark other seats as unavailable. Delta Air Lines is notorious for often showing just middle seats at the time of booking.
Only by paying an additional “seat selection” fee you can choose another seat. If travelers would drop out en masse at that moment and book another airline Delta would very soon change its policy.
The seat selection on your screen depends among other things on your status with the carrier. For gold and platinum members it displays more seats than for customers with a lower status or no status at all.
Last minute tickets are hardly ever the bargains that many people think they are. Thus, if you see an attractive rate, you had better book it immediately.
Tags: cheap tickets, low room rates, optimal window to book, last minute tickets