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We’re huge fans of Google Flights. It’s the TPG team’s first stop when it comes to booking any paid travel, and it’s also a great resource for zeroing in on the fantastic flight deals we share on a daily basis.
In 2016, the Google Flights team saw searches for Thanksgiving travel increase significantly around mid-October, so assuming you’re booking flights within the next few weeks, the site’s tips might save you some cash.
1. “Avoid the busiest travel days.”
Sometimes this can’t be helped — if you only have off on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, flying on an off-peak day might be out of the question. But if you can travel on, say, the Saturday or Sunday before the big day, then return home on Black Friday or the Saturday that follows, you’ll get to fly with lighter crowds and lower fares.
2. “Prepare for busier airports.”
There’s a common theme here — travelers head to warmer climes in November, so with the exception of Boston, Chicago and New York City, the hottest destinations tend to be in the South. More flyers also means more frequencies, though, so you might be able to find affordable flights to some of the busier destinations too, especially those that are served by many airlines. Consider alternate airports as well — if San Francisco is where you’re headed, look at flights to Oakland and San Jose, too.
3. “Get away instead of going home for turkey.”
This is easier said than done, of course — especially if big group dinners are a thing in your family — but if you’re able to hop the pond or head to a less popular destination over Thanksgiving week, you can save a bundle and avoid running into other Americans abroad, too. For example, on peak days the cheapest nonstop flights between New York and San Francisco will run you just over $600 round-trip, and that’s only if you’re willing to take a redeye. A trip to London will cost you the same, including the UK’s infamous Air Passenger Duty. You may find better award availability for international flights as well.
4. “Book your flights before expected price increases.”
If you’re used to paying $300 for a transcon flight that includes seat assignments and carry-on bags, you’ll need to accept that it’s simply not going to happen for Thanksgiving week. According to Google, if you’re planning to begin your trip on November 23, for example, expect fares to jump on November 1, November 8 and once more on November 15. You may find airfares to fluctuate on different dates in practice, but a good rule of thumb is that fares will increase 21, 14 and again 7 days before departure.
You might get lucky if there’s loads of availability within a day or two of your flight, but if you need to be in a certain place on a certain date, that’s probably not a chance you’re going to want to take. If the fare — or award rate — works within your budget now, this is likely the time to pull the trigger.
5. “Ring in the new year with a vacation abroad.”
This is essentially the advice we received in #3, but this time we’re talking about Christmas and New Year’s. Google Flights’ top trending hotspots are listed above, and they’re worth considering if the price is right, but you might want to use the map tool to find a less popular — or more affordable — destination, instead.
Where are you headed for Thanksgiving and New Year’s in 2017?
Featured image of Waikiki by Duane Walker via Getty Images.
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