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When to Book Your Thanksgiving Travel

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Now that the leaves are changing color, a chill’s in the air and pumpkin-flavored everything can be found everywhere, it can only mean one thing: Thanksgiving will be here before you know it. Travel booking site Kayak.com has sifted through a cornucopia of data to find the best times to pounce on Turkey Day travel, so if you haven’t made your travel plans for the autumn holiday yet, which this year falls on Thursday, November 27, there’s no time like the present.

Making plans for the Thanksgiving holiday? Let's talk turkey about the best days to book airfare and travel
Making travel plans for the Thanksgiving holiday? Let’s talk turkey about the best days for fares and flights (Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

When to Book Thanksgiving Airfare

The logic of airfare fluctuations can be difficult to follow around Thanksgiving, one of the year’s most expensive travel weekends. In years past, mid-October has proven the best time to purchase domestic airfare for Thanksgiving, but this year, early November is the target deadline. If you’re planning a trip abroad for the holiday weekend, however, the time to book is now.

Kayak.com actually recommends that you book your domestic airfare a mere two to four weeks in advance. Based on their 2013 data, the lowest average fares for domestic Thanksgiving travel were found in early November – as low as $401, which is 34% less than the highest average fare of $612.

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For the best Thanksgiving airfares, book now for international trips, early November for domestic, and last-minute for the Caribbean (Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

If you’re looking to travel overseas for Thanksgiving, though, it’s ideal to book ASAP or risk paying the highest fares. According to Kayak, late November 2013 saw the greatest increase in average fares to Europe (up 28%), Asia (up 24%) and South America (up 31%) during the Thanksgiving holiday. 

However, if you’re planning to head to the Caribbean, you might get the best deal on your airfare by waiting until the last minute. Kayak reports that Caribbean airfare took a 14% jump in mid-October 2013, while those who booked their Caribbean flights on November 20, 2013 scored a 16% savings.

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A quick Thanksgiving visit could equal big savings, but you can still save by letting the days pile up          (Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Which Days to Travel for Thanksgiving

If you book your domestic flights to both depart and return on Thanksgiving Day, your fares could dip as low as 30% below average. For international travelers, Thanksgiving Day departures resulted in fares that were more than 15% below average. You can also save money by departing the Monday prior to the holiday and returning on Thanksgiving.

If pushing back from the table and heading to the airport doesn’t appeal to you, though, Kayak found that in 2013, those who stayed through the weekend and returned on Tuesday saved about 20%. Additionally, Kayak reported a 31% decrease in searches for travel on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, which may just translate into more empty airplanes, as well.

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Want to avoid crowds at the airport? Wait to return home until the Tuesday after Thanksgiving                (Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

In general, it’s best to avoid weekend departure/return dates, as these tend to yield the highest fares. If you leave as close to the holiday as possible and return the following week, you can score a savings of up to 19% off the average holiday weekend fare.

Remember that Thanksgiving travel is busier than any other peak travel period, so you can easily avoid stress (and have a happier holiday) simply by leaving yourself a little extra time at the airport.

TPG Tip: When booking airfare, consider using a card that maximizes airfare purchases like 3x points per dollar on airfare with the American Express Premier Rewards Gold or 2x points on the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Will you be traveling this holiday season? Where are you going and how do you plan to maximize your points and save money?

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