This Is the Best Time to Book Your Thanksgiving and Christmas Flights

Updated: Feb. 01, 2024

If you're planning to take a flight this year, don't wait.

When it comes to booking a budget-friendly flight, there’s lots of conflicting advice out there—even the best time to book a flight seems to change fairly often. You don’t want to book too early or too late, but it’s hard to hit the bulls-eye on the perfect happy medium that’ll get you the best price.

The holiday season can be particularly stressful because it seems like everyone is traveling and trying to enjoy a Christmas getaway. This year is especially stressful because the coronavirus pandemic is spiking in the United States again, raising questions about the safety of travel. But for now, flights are still operating—and Molly Anderson, Member Operations Specialist of Scott’s Cheap Flights, offers some advice on when to click “buy,” for your flights for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

When should you buy flights?

Thanksgiving falls on Thursday, November 26, in 2020. Anderson says that if you haven’t booked your domestic flight yet, you’ll want to do it ASAP. “Typically, booking at least two months in advance is best,” she told Reader’s Digest. “The closer you get to Thanksgiving, the higher the prices you will pay, especially once you’re within two to three weeks when prices typically start to soar.”

When it comes to Christmas, “don’t book your Christmas flights too early or too late,” Anderson advises. She says you should hold off from buying the first offer that you see; prices will likely drop within two to three months of the holiday, which falls on a Friday this year. “Booking by October will typically yield your largest savings,” she says. “Last-minute deals very rarely become available for Christmastime.”

As for when you should absolutely not book a flight? “If you can avoid it, the two to three weeks leading up to both holidays will typically have the highest prices,” Anderson says. Things are hectic right now, but that’s all the more reason to stay  These are the air travel rules you need to know for flying during the pandemic.

How is the pandemic affecting holiday travel fares?

Airfare and the air travel industry, in general, have been rocked by COVID-19, but there’s actually a glimmer of a silver lining for domestic holiday travelers. “Holiday fares for Thanksgiving have been slightly lower domestically this year than previous years—and the lower prices have also stuck around longer than most years,” Anderson says. “Act fast and you can still hope to come across a lower price than expected.” She warns, though, that prices will likely start to climb again as November begins. She says that Christmas flights, too, have been priced lower than usual, but prices have also been fluctuating more.

Another potentially frustrating change brought about by the uncertainty of 2020? “Airlines have not finished finalizing their winter schedules yet, so if you book a trip, your flight times could change in the next month or so—potentially multiple times,” Anderson warns. If you book a flight, keep a close eye on the itinerary to make sure you know what time your plane is taking off.

What about international flights?

Well, the places Americans are and aren’t allowed to travel right now changes almost weekly, so if you’re planning on traveling internationally this year, make sure you’ve done your research about the policies of the place you’re going. But if you’re hoping to take a holiday sojourn out of the country, Anderson says that you might be able to snag a great deal—especially if you’re taking a Thanksgiving trip. “Thanksgiving can be one of the holidays with the best deals because most Americans are traveling domestically, leaving many seats to fill on international flights,” she says. For Christmas, though, don’t expect to see as much of a difference between international and domestic flights. Next, find out what airfare could be like in 2021.