When To Book Your Christmas Flights For The Best Deals

The festive season is a time for joy, celebration, and spending time with loved ones. For many, it also means traveling, be it a short journey to a nearby city or an international flight to another continent. But booking flights during the peak holiday season is stressful, to say the least. Prices tend to skyrocket, and seats fill up faster than one can click "book now." So, when is the best time to book your Christmas flights to ensure you get the best deals? The answer: by the end of October. 

Procrastination might be an all-too-human trait, but it can cost you dearly when it comes to holiday travel. While it might seem too early to start thinking about Christmas in October, the aviation industry is already gearing up for one of its busiest times of the year. "After Halloween, prices will increase considerably as Thanksgiving gets closer," warns Phil Dengler, travel expert and co-owner of The Vacationer, in an interview with Real Simple

Why not September or November? Here's the thing: September might still be a bit too early because many airlines haven't yet released all their holiday promotions. By October, however, these deals are typically available, and you can compare them to find the best ones. On the other hand, waiting until November can be risky. With Thanksgiving around the corner and Christmas not far behind, many people are scrambling to finalize their travel plans. Demand goes up, and so do prices.

The 'Goldilocks window' wins the best Christmas deals

According to a recently published report by Google Flights, prices tend to be lowest 54 to 78 days before departure. Called the "Goldilocks Window," this booking time frame essentially means not too early and not too late. Booking at the right time means comfortable seats on your preferred flight, your flight will cost much less, and you'll have one less thing to worry about.

Another advantage of booking by October 31 is the flexibility it offers. You'll have a broader choice of flight times and dates, allowing you to find the perfect fit for your schedule. This is especially important if you have limited vacation days or are trying to coordinate with family members flying in from different locations. If you wait until after Halloween, not only will you be stuck with a less-than-ideal flight, but you will also have to pay lots for it. After trick or treating is over, domestic flight costs can spike up a staggering 40%. 

While the end of October is a general guideline, staying updated on deals and promotions is essential. Many airlines and travel agencies offer early bird discounts or special promotions leading up to the holiday season. Subscribe to newsletters, set price alerts, and regularly check airline websites. Buying midweek, from Tuesday to the end of Wednesday, is best for scoring a lower price. By being proactive, you could snag an incredible deal even before October ends. "Purchase flights immediately when they reach your desired threshold," suggests co-founder of Boutique Travel Advisors, Janet Semenova.

What if you miss the deadline?

Sometimes, despite our best intentions, we can't finalize our holiday plans in time. Life happens. If you find yourself in this situation, don't despair. Some airlines do offer last-minute deals to fill up seats. These can be a bit of a gamble, but if you're flexible with your dates and times, you might get lucky. You can also consider flying in and out of less popular airports. They might be further away from your final destination, but they can offer significantly lower prices. 

If you can travel outside of the peak days (for Christmas, this typically means avoiding the few days before December 25 and the days immediately following), you might save between 25% and 30%. Avoiding weekend departures and opting for layover flights can also help. So can booking a flight along with accommodation or a car rental. Travel agencies or websites often offer holiday packages that can be more affordable than booking each component separately. In an interview with the Washington Post, Kayla Inserra of KAYAK reports that hotel and car rates are dropping around 16% compared to last year, which is good news.

By planning ahead with these travel tips and ensuring you book your flight tickets by the end of October, the logistical side of your Christmas trip will be smoother and save you some money. Not to mention, those funds can be better spent on gifts, memorable experiences, or even future travels!