For two years, Americans have been reluctant to travel during the holidays because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But in a milestone marking America’s return to normalcy, travel numbers are expected to increase this year.
More than half of Americans say they plan to travel for either 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% over 2019, the last holiday season before COVID-19 arrived. International airfares are selling for an average of $795, also up 22%.
If you plan to book for Thanksgiving, you likely should do so by mid-October. Hopper notes that domestic fares for the holiday peaked at $400 in August, and have fallen in September, as they traditionally do every year. Fares are now 9% off their peak and are expected to remain there until the second half of October, when they are projected to rise again.
For Christmas, domestic fares are averaging $463, up nearly 33%. For international trips, fares are averaging $1,300, up 26%. Fares were higher in August — at $500 for a domestic trip — and have fallen 3% to 5% since then.
Hopper urges travelers to book their flights sooner rather than later. According to the fare tracker:
“Today, a smaller proportion of travelers are planning Christmas and Thanksgiving trips than at this time in 2019 or 2018. Given airlines are flying fewer flights this year and demand is expected to skyrocket for holiday travel, Americans need to start planning their holiday trips now!”
Hopper says your best bet is to book a flight no later than the week of Oct. 10.
Those who are flexible and willing to travel on less popular dates can save up to $300 off of peak airfares, Hopper says. For the largest savings:
- Fly on the Monday of Thanksgiving week and return on any day of the following week.
- Fly on the Monday or Tuesday before Christmas weekend and return on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday of the following week.