The 2022 Holiday Flight Schedule: Best and Worst Times to Travel
Recent results from our 2022 Christmas Travel Survey show that nearly 43% of American adults are making travel plans to visit family and friends for the holidays. Many people will be taking to the skies for the first time in a few years, making the 2022 holiday season a prime time to book flights.
Since Christmas and New Year's flights tend to sell out quickly, it's best to book as far in advance as possible to get the best deals (ideally, you've already done this). And when it comes to crowds and prices, there are better days to fly than others. How far in advance should you book your holiday trip? What are the best and worst days to fly? See our overall best and worst days to fly guide for the rest of the year.
Thanksgiving and Christmas flights are best booked well in advance. In general, we advise planning ahead and purchasing tickets for domestic flights one to three months in advance. We recommend booking your international flight two to eight months in advance, but the sooner the better. During the holiday season, it is especially important to plan ahead to secure your preferred itinerary, travel time, seat, and price.
Around 11 months out, you can book flights on both domestic and international carriers (for revenue and award tickets), but you should be wary of booking domestic flights too far in advance. The earliest in the booking window you can purchase an international flight, the better the price. After a few months have passed since their initial release, prices for domestic flights typically decrease. Therefore, it is recommended that you book your international flight well in advance of your domestic flight, and this is especially true during the holiday season.
These are the latest dates by which we advise you to book your flight for Thanksgiving or December.
To celebrate Thanksgiving (but make your reservation before Halloween),
You can save the most money on your Thanksgiving flight if you book it in late August or early September. To avoid disappointment, make your reservation in June or July. The earlier you book, the better, especially for international flights Do not put off booking until after Halloween; the earlier, the better. After Halloween, your chances of scoring a bargain diminish significantly. The likelihood of finding a convenient flight time decreases after Halloween, as well.
December (read before Thanksgiving)
Typically, the cheapest flight options for Christmas can be found between the end of August and the beginning of September. Make your reservations as soon as possible in June or July. You should make reservations no later than Thanksgiving, but the sooner, the better. You can expect to pay more for a flight if it is still unbooked in December. Further, you will probably only be able to choose from inconvenient flight times, with the possibility of one or more connections.
Dates to Fly for the Holidays (and When to Avoid It)
Since Thanksgiving always falls on a Thursday, we can always anticipate the safest and most expensive times to fly. Since Christmas does not always take place on a Sunday, Wednesday, or Friday, preparations can be more of a challenge. To help you plan your holiday activities, we've compiled a list of the days you should prioritize and those you should try to avoid. We surveyed hundreds of flight prices between Thanksgiving and Christmas to determine the best and worst days to travel. We used a large number of U.S. gateway and destination cities as part of our sample.
Best times to leave and return for Thanksgiving
More than 43% of American adults, according to our 2022 Thanksgiving Travel Survey, planned to travel to a vacation spot or holiday gathering this year. That's a lot of people vying for a small number of flights, as there were tens of millions of them.
When to Go for Thanksgiving in 2022
In the table below, you can see that early weekday morning departures are optimal. If you can, try to avoid Mondays and instead do things on Sunday. Thanksgiving Day is a good day to fly, though it's not the best. If you can only afford a short flight, Black Friday is a great day to book.
If you want to avoid the crowds and get back to your own place before the weekend, the best days to fly back are Friday and Monday following Thanksgiving. If you can hold off until Tuesday, you will be much happier.
A Look at the 2021 Thanksgiving Season and When to Avoid Traveling
Don't do anything important on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. This is a peak travel day, so airfare tends to be higher than usual. The constant congestion of airports only adds to the stress of flying.
You shouldn't book a flight home until after Christmas, so skip that Sunday after Thanksgiving. On that Sunday, most people take a flight back home before starting the new work week. Returning home via flight is best accomplished on a Friday, Monday, or Tuesday.
If you want to travel for Christmas, the best times to go and come back are
Nearly 43% of American adults, according to this year's Christmas Travel Survey, will be traveling to a vacation spot or gathering. With an annual shift in the date of Christmas comes a corresponding shift in the optimal times to travel. Dates are also affected by factors such as school and business holidays. The fact that Christmas can occur on a weekend (as it will in 2022) only adds to the complexity of the holiday season. As a general rule, Christmas Eve, December 23, is the worst day to fly, though this is not set in stone. If you're planning a trip that involves air travel, we suggest using one of our recommended Airline Travel Credit Cards, which come with perks like high bonuses, free miles, access to airport lounges, and more. For more ways to get free hotel stays, large sign-up bonuses, and more, check out our picks for the best hotel travel credit cards.
Ideal Holiday Travel Times in 2022
A departure date prior to the middle of Christmas week is preferable. People from the United States typically try to cram as much work as possible into the first part of the week before taking off on vacation. Planning a flight for Monday, December 19 or Tuesday, December 20 is recommended. When possible, Sunday, December 18 is ideal. If you want to save money and avoid the crowds, flying on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day is the best time to do it.
This year, Christmas is on a Sunday, prompting many to schedule return flights for the Monday after the holiday. Avoid taking off on the Monday and Tuesday after Christmas (December 26 and 27) if you can.
Dates in 2022 that are Worst for Christmas Travel
The 22nd and 23rd of December, the days before Christmas Eve, will be extremely busy travel days. If at all possible, I would suggest leaving earlier in the week to avoid them.
When booking your return flight, try to avoid the days immediately following Christmas. Even though it's the day after Christmas, many people will fly back on Monday or Tuesday so they can get back to work on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Planning Your Trip for New Year's Eve and Day
We suggest departing on either Wednesday, December 28 or Thursday, December 29 for the New Year's holiday. Return on Wednesday, January 4, 2023, and fly home. When possible, try to book your flight for New Year's Eve or the morning of New Year's Day for a reduced rate. Taking a flight on New Year's Eve will likely cause you to miss all of the festivities. Unless you can get to bed very early on New Year's Eve, a flight that departs early on New Year's Day is not a good idea, either.
You should postpone any departures on December 30 and 31 until after the new year.
Thanksgiving and Christmas flights in 2022 will cost an average of $400 and $500, respectively.
Now that it's November, it's time to start thinking about how to pay for your Thanksgiving and Christmas flights. The typical cost of a Thanksgiving round-trip flight is $400. Costs for a round-trip flight during the holiday season typically start at $500.
Those costs will change depending on where you go and when you go, so it's important to shop around before making a reservation. You should try to schedule your trips on the days we suggest to avoid the worst weather.
For the 2022 Winter Holidays, Travel is Picking Up Speed
The holiday travel market in 2021 picked up after a slow 2020 season. TSA checkpoints are seeing hundreds of thousands more passengers per day compared to the same day last year. This is the last holiday season before the pandemic, and the numbers are only slightly lower than they were in 2019.
The number of people planning to travel during the holidays in 2021 increased by 37% from the number who planned to do so in our survey in 2020.
How to Save Money on Holiday Flights: More Suggestions
For more information on how to book low-cost flights, read our helpful guide. Some of the most important recommendations, such as being very flexible with dates and destinations, may not apply to holiday travel, but other recommendations can still be helpful. To name a few examples:
- What You Should Do First Is Check Google Flights
- Do: Be Flexible With Your Choice of Nearby Origin and Destination Airports.
- Allow Any and All Airline Options
- Keep an Open Mind About Connecting Flights
- Don't: Frustrate Yourself Delete Cookie History
- In other words, you shouldn't bother using private browsing modes.
Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday before Thanksgiving are prime travel days.
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the worst day to book a flight.
The three days following Thanksgiving are prime time. The Sunday following Thanksgiving is the worst day of the year.
It is, but it's not great for the vast majority of people.
Sure, but nobody really wants to fly home the day after Thanksgiving.
If you want to get the best rate, you should book by the middle of September at the latest. International travelers should book even earlier in advance. Do not put off making reservations until after Halloween.
Since Christmas falls on a different date every year, it's hard to say. Aim for the time period starting a few days before December 24th.
Do not travel in the days leading up to Christmas Eve.
Since Christmas falls on a different date every year, it's hard to say. Try to schedule it for after the holidays.
To receive the lowest available rate, reservations must be made by the middle of September. International travelers should book even earlier in advance. Do not put off your reservation until after Thanksgiving.
Afterthoughts of a Traveler
You should already have reservations for your 2022 vacation. There is still time to strike a bargain if you haven't already, but you must act swiftly. Use the article's suggested dates instead of the problematic ones. When the holidays are over, check out our guides for the cheapest days to fly and the best day to book flights.
Editorial Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of any specific financial institution, credit card company, hotel chain, airline, or other organization. None of the entities mentioned in the post have reviewed, approved, or endorsed the content you are about to read.
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