When experts name the “best” days to travel, they usually name the days airfares are lowest—which often aren’t optimal for most people once you factor in personal convenience and schedule constraints. There’s typically a reason why these ones are the slower travel days.
All you really need to conclude the best days for holiday travel this year is a calendar. And while this talk is usually about “best” days, it’s better to work backwards: Focus on identifying the worst holiday travel days (read: busiest and most expensive) based on the days of the week, and try to fly on one of those outlying days.
Here are the flying days to keep in mind for holiday travel 2017.
Thanksgiving Holiday Travel 2017
By now, just about everybody has heard this conventional travel wisdom: Thanksgiving weekend is the busiest time of the year for airlines. The worst days to fly are the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (this year, November 22) and the following Sunday (this year, November 26).
For the few days before the 23rd and the few days after the 25th, low-fare seats will be scarce. So, the further away from these days you can travel, the better. Low-fare seats are often more available on Thanksgiving Day and the next day, when everyone is relaxing after the Thursday meal and/or looking for Black Friday shopping deals.
Canadian Thanksgiving is on Monday, October 9, so the worst days will likely be Friday, October 6, and Tuesday, October 10. And just the same, the few days leading up to and following those days will be busy.
Christmas and New Year’s Holiday Travel 2017
The biggest year-end holidays fall on Mondays in 2017, making for a plethora of “worst” holiday travel days. For Christmas they’re Friday, December 22, plus the 23rd and 24th. For New Year’s avoid Friday, the 29th, and Tuesday, January 2nd. Travel on the interim days is usually down a bit from these peak days, because many travelers like to combine the two three-day weekends into a 10-day holiday to use up those leftover vacation days. So, you can likely find some good deals during that period.
When to Buy for Holiday Travel 2017
But, be sensible. Sure, if you’re flying, you want to find good deals—but don’t let the airlines dictate your holiday. Always keep in mind those days you really want to be at your destination, not flying, and finalize your fares somewhat early.
Previous reports have found that airfares rise from their lowest point only gradually until three to four weeks before the holiday period begins. Finding them will only continue to get tougher after a certain point as the holidays approach. Check the available airfares early, and, as Airfarewatchdog‘s George Hobica often advises: “When you find a good deal, pounce.”
If you’re heading to a popular holiday destination such as Hawaii, Florida, or Vegas, remember to check for air-hotel packages. Packages often remain available and affordable well after cheap airline seats are gone.
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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuse every day at SmarterTravel.