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When to Book Your Christmas and New Year’s Eve Travel

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Let’s face it, you probably still have a jack-o-lantern sitting on your doorstep and your Thanksgiving Day plans are still up in the air, but the busy winter holiday season will still be here before you know it. Travel booking site Kayak.com has plowed through a snowstorm of data to find the best times to book your trips for Christmas and New Year’s Eve, so if you haven’t yet made your travel plans for the December holidays, now is a great time to skate ahead of the pack and get started.

The twinkle of the winter holidays will be here soon, so there's no time like the present to book your travel (Image by Shutterstock)
The twinkle of the winter holidays will be here soon, so there’s no time like the present to book your travel (Image by Shutterstock)

When to Book Christmas and New Year’s Eve Airfare 

Christmas

For domestic travel, Kayak.com recommends booking only three weeks in advance. Booking windows are tight, so look to the first week of December for savings around 5 percent. If you wait too long, mid-December fares will begin to steadily increase and you could be looking at average fares that are as much as 36 percent above average and 50 percent above the lowest average fare.

For international travel, booking as soon as humanly possible is the best way to go. Based on Kayak’s 2013 data, average airfare rose more than $600 from July through the holiday. If you wait until December to book travel abroad, you might see average fare increases as high as 33 percent for Asia, 16 percent for the Caribbean, and 56 percent for destinations in South America. If you’re traveling to the Caribbean, however, and have to wait until December to book your trip, know that early December 2013 saw a decrease of up to 10 percent on average fares to the region.

New Year’s Eve 

2015 will roll in before you know it - have you made your New Year's travel plans yet?  (Image courtesy of Shutterstock)
2015 will roll in before you know it – have you made your New Year’s travel plans yet?                                 (Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

For the best domestic deals, Kayak.com recommends booking your New Year’s Eve travel about two weeks before your desired departure date. The lowest average fares for domestic travel were found in early December, saving travelers up to 1o percent. Around mid-December, though, fares will most likely begin to climb and you could be looking at paying up to 11 percent more than the average fare.

Which Days to Travel for Christmas 

Whether you're traveling domestically or internationally this Christmas, when you fly can determine how much you save. (Image courtesy of Shutterstock)
Whether you’re traveling domestically or internationally this Christmas, when you fly can determine how much you save. (Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

Kayak.com has found that domestic travelers who flew as close to Christmas day as possible saved up to 33 percent on their airfare. Conversely, those who chose to spend the night and depart the day after Christmas (which this year falls on Friday, December 26) saved only about 28 percent. If you can’t make this kind of tight schedule work, be aware that Tuesday, December 23 and Wednesday, December 24 are also decent days to fly out, with airfares of about 15 percent below average.

Last year, travelers who spent Christmas overseas and flew in and out on the same day saved as much as 30 percent. If you’re not quite up for that grind, your best bet is to depart at the beginning of the week, between Tuesday, December 23 and Friday, December 26, and to return as soon as possible the following week; for example, travelers heading overseas on Wednesday, December 24 and returning on Monday, December 29, will save as much as 20 percent off the average airfare.

Whatever you do, avoid spending more than seven days overseas, or you could be slapped with a premium of up to 27 percent above the average airfare.  If you have your heart set on staying away the entire week of the holiday – Sunday, December 21 through Sunday, December 28 – you could pay as much as 23 percent more than the average airfare.

TPG Tip: When booking airfare, consider using a card that maximizes airfare purchases, such as 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 for the winter holidays? If so, where are you going and how do you plan to maximize your points and save money?

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