— -- No one wants to think about Thanksgiving now. Not when there’s still a sliver of summer left.
But it’s an absolute must for anyone who will be traveling during the November holiday. Especially those who will head to the airport on the two most popular days of the year to fly. That’s right, the two most popular days of the year to fly are the Wednesday before and Sunday after Thanksgiving.
And since Thanksgiving falls on Nov. 23 this year, the most popular days to fly will be Nov. 22 and Nov. 26. The dates will vary, but it’s always the same combo, Wednesday before/Sunday after.
Picture the worst airport lines you’ve ever experienced and you get an idea of how bad it’ll be, but it gets even worse because these are also the two most expensive days of the year to fly.
Why are these two days are so expensive?
The very popularity of these two travel days is the reason they cost so much. Today’s airlines know exactly when we want to fly and price their fares accordingly. It’s not unique to the airlines, as a friend learned recently when pricing Idaho hotels for the eclipse where a room in a mid-range chain that normally goes for $140 had jumped to $590. Turkey Day travelers must also be prepared to pay steeper than normal fares, but there are ways to bring costs down.
What can travelers do?
Start now: Plan your itinerary as soon as possible, especially if you have to ask the boss for time off; then see if you can create an itinerary that avoids flights on Wednesday and Sunday. To be honest, the other days won’t be cheap but they’ll almost always be cheaper than Wednesday or Sunday.
Choose best days to fly: Flying on Thanksgiving Day is often the cheapest date in the entire holiday and if you take-off early enough, you won’t miss a moment of the celebration. Lesser savings can be achieved by departing Monday or Tuesday before the holiday and the Saturday or Monday after. Use an airfare comparison site like my own but there are many out there. Then juggle days to see which is cheapest for your route.
Shop immediately: This is only true for those who must fly Wednesday/Sunday but they should shop and buy tickets now because prices are now rising every day for this itinerary. Airfare goes up on average by $.50 to $.75 a day then $1.50 in September and $2.50 by October. Again, those are per day increases and it adds up so the worst procrastinators could wind up paying on average an extra $200 per ticket (or more). If don’t plan to fly the most popular days and will take off maybe Monday or Tuesday before and return Saturday or Monday after, you can wait a couple more weeks before the price rise begins but do not wait long.
Fifty cents may not seem like much now, so it’s easy to ignore. But you could suddenly find yourself paying hundreds more than you planned on. Thanksgiving is pricey enough anyway, so don’t delay. There is no point whatsoever in paying a penny more than you have to.
Rick Seaney is the CEO of FareCompare, a website that curates the best deals on flights from around the world. Any opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author.