It’s time to talk turkey. Or, more specifically, getting to your Thanksgiving destination to enjoy turkey this year.
It’s seven weeks from the big day, and Thanksgiving weekend is one of the most heavily-traveled times of the year for leisure travelers. Because it’s a busy time — or “peak” as it’s called in the industry — for the airlines, you can expect higher prices over Thanksgiving weekend than any other weekend between now and the holiday.
Unfortunately, you can also expect prices that are slightly higher than last year’s. Pricing data from Priceline, one of the world’s largest travel sites, shows airfare is 3 percent higher than Thanksgiving 2011.
The average price of a round-trip domestic ticket this summer is $393, compared with $382 in 2011, according to Priceline.
Experts say waiting until the last minute isn’t the way to go when booking holiday airfare. In his recent column on ABCNews.com, Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare wrote, “Wait too long and you may wind up home alone with a frozen turkey dinner. Time to get moving. Time to shop for Thanksgiving.”
There are ways to save. Flying on off-peak days will yield cheaper prices — that means avoiding the Tuesday and Wednesday before the holiday and the Sunday following. Priceline said the most affordable days to fly over the holiday are November 19, 22, 27, 28, 29 and 30.
Time of day is also a factor in the final price. Travelers will find the most affordable seats departing early in the morning (5-7 a.m.) or late evening (after 8 p.m.). Mid-day (11 a.m. – 4 p.m.) is a bit more expensive; most expensive are the peak business travel hours (8-10 a.m. and 5-7 p.m.).
And don’t forget to pack light. Most major carriers charge $25 for the first checked bag and $35 for the second. Southwest Airlines and JetBlue are two exceptions. Southwest allows two free checked bags and JetBlue allows one. If you or your traveling companions can’t keep it to the one personal item and one carry-on bag permitted by major carriers, price out your options including how many bags you’re likely to take along.
And while a much smaller player in the industry, those flying Spirit Airlines beware. The carrier charges for both carry-on and checked baggage, so unless you’re going with only the clothes on your back and toothbrush in hand, it’s important to factor in all the fees. Spirit will start charging as much as $100 for a carry-on bag as of Nov. 6, 2012, just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.