When should you book flights for next Christmas?

Dec 27, 2020

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from TPG! You may have paid a lot for flights at Christmastime — it’s one of the busiest and most expensive travel periods of the year. It’s not unusual to see flights priced at twice or three times what they would cost at other times of the year.

Travel rules permitting, if you are flying long-haul to somewhere like Australia or New Zealand at this time, you may have found that you either had to fly a carrier you didn’t want to or take a convoluted or indirect routing in order to get there for a reasonable price. Last year, friends of mine flew home from London (LHR) to Sydney (SYD) for Christmas and ended up flying via San Francisco (SFO), as it was the least expensive option, though obviously a very long journey — roughly 26 hours in the air.

If you want to avoid paying through the nose for flights next Christmas, or maybe use points or miles, there’s very simple advice — book as early as you possibly can, ideally now.

Be mindful though of various countries’ travel restrictions and guidelines when booking, due to the COVID-19 pandemic — though hopefully these will all be lifted by this time next year.

It’s very unlikely any airline will reduce fares significantly or have a sale for dates during Christmas 2021, so once flights are available, they will only get more expensive. Airlines will usually sell different numbers of seats for different prices or fare brackets on the same flight. Once the cheapest fares have sold out, the next cheapest seats become the cheapest available and so on.

Related: Which airports are the best to connect in when flying to Australia?

The Spanish island of Ibiza is drop-dead gorgeous. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
The Spanish island of Ibiza. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock/Lukasz Janyst)

If a flight is not selling, the airline may choose to discount fares heavily in order to fill up all the empty seats.

Airlines have no difficulty filling their planes at Christmas, as so many people typically travel. The best time to book is as soon as the tickets for your desired flights go on sale, as they are likely to be the lowest prices you will see (and they may not even be that cheap depending on where you are traveling). The exact dates differ slightly from airline to airline, but most airlines load their fares between 11 months and 12 months in advance of each flight.

If you are planning to use points for your Christmas flights, then you should plan to book them as soon as they are released. For premium fares on premium routes you need to be online (or on the phone) the second they are released to book them with points.

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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 24: Santa Claus sits in his chair as he poses for photographs at Luna Park on December 24, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. Hundreds of locals and international visitors have had the opportunity to have their photo taken with Santa Claus against the iconic backdrop of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House during the month of December before Santa has to leave Sydney on Christmas Eve and deliver his presents to children all over the world. (Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)
Santa in Sydney. (Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)

If you are happy with a cash fare and have some flexibility, it is not essential that you book the very second seats are released but I would definitely recommend booking as soon as you can. For destinations like Australia or New Zealand for Christmas, aim for at least nine months in advance — it’s likely flights will only get a (lot) more expensive.

Note that Google Flights will only show dates up to 11 months in advance — where an airline sells flights more than 11 months in advance you would need to go directly to their own website where they would list all flights they have on sale. Skyscanner on the other hand do show dates and flights for a full 12 months in advance.

Bottom line

It’s simple really. Don’t waste time and as soon as you spot those home-bound flights and you can afford it or have the points and miles, get booking!

Featured image by Gettys Images/Emilija Manevska

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