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Book cheap Christmas airfare on these days


If you’re a last-minute planner who is just now booking your holiday flights, never fear: Sure, you could have saved some extra cash if you’d planned ahead, but you can still be smart about which days you fly later this month. 

We reached out to both Expedia and Kayak, two travel-focused booking sites, to find out about which days are the most (and least) expensive to travel for the holidays. Their data is a bit different, so your destination could impact which insights you consider, depending on flight demand and availablity. 

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The worst day to fly

The folks over at Expedia say the worst day to fly is Thursday, Dec. 22, with Saturday, Dec. 17 ranking as the second-most expensive. Ticket prices on Thursday are about 10% more than average for the week before Christmas, while both Saturday and Friday, Dec. 23 clock in at about 5% more, according to an analysis of 2022 Expedia flight data.  

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Kayak’s team also notes Friday, Dec. 23 as one of the priciest pre-Christmas days, according to flight searches, along with Wednesday, Dec. 21 — and those dates are also receiving the highest amount of search interest among users. 

The best day to fly

If you want to pocket a few more bucks, leave earlier in the week. On Expedia, average ticket prices for Monday, Dec. 19, and Tuesday, Dec. 20, are nearly 20% lower than Thursday. (Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are also cheaper than average for the week leading up to the holiday, the Expedia team says.) In fact, Dec. 19 ticket prices are about 15% cheaper than the most expensive day in the lead-up to Christmas, according to their analysis.

“I’m a big fan of traveling on Christmas Eve, Christmas or New Year’s,” Expedia spokesperson Melanie Fish said in a statement provided via email. “Not only are the tickets usually cheaper, but the airports tend to be emptier. And it must be the holiday spirit, because people are generally really friendly — from the passengers to the flight attendants, everyone is a little nicer and more patient.”  

When to head home after the holidays

Both teams agree that travelers should avoid scheduling post-Christmas flights on Monday, Dec. 26. Aim to depart Tuesday or Wednesday — unless you can leave even later: New Year’s Eve is the “ultimate budget-friendly day to fly,” the Expedia team says. Average ticket prices are a whopping $200 cheaper on Dec. 31 than average for the entire holiday period (from Dec. 17 to Jan. 1, 2023), according to Expedia data.

The Kayak team says Dec. 29 and 30 are also some of the least expensive days to fly.

How to find cheap Christmas flights

Fish recommends playing around with flexible fare calendars for both your departure and return. As you’re monitoring flight deals, you can also subscribe to price alerts on the Expedia app “so you can snag the best price,” Fish adds.

Kayak, too, offers price alerts and forecasts, plus an Explore tool that allows you to set your own budget and check out options within that range.

Additionally, Expedia is offering a new way to pay for these flights thanks to a partnership with Afterpay. Instead of dishing out for your entire holiday trip up front, the service allows you to make four biweekly payments on your airfare without incurring interest. Using “buy now, pay later” platforms can “reduce your travel costs by splitting the payments over time while on a budget,” money coach and Afterpay ambassador Lea Landaverde said in a press release announcing the partnership. “Just don’t forget to account for the future payments in your budget after the holidays!” 

Save on hotels and rental cars

Outside of flights, we’ve also got our eye on various last-minute holiday travel deals. For example, you can save up to 15% off “late escape” hotels on Booking.com.

Throughout the entire month of December, Priceline is celebrating a “Season of Savings” with discounts of 10% or more on select hotels. There will be a “sale” icon next to eligible hotels, as well as rental car bookings with savings of up to 25% off.

Best places to visit for Christmas

The most popular 2022 Christmas destinations span the globe, from Cancun and Orlando to New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas, according to Expedia.

In fact, data from Kayak shows that international travel searches have surpassed domestic ones for the first time in three years. The Kayak team posits a few reasons why more Americans might be heading abroad for the holidays, including the fact that domestic flight prices are much higher than last year. A Kayak survey also found that nearly 20% of respondents are “willing to either dodge messages from family, wait until it’s too late to book or make up a lie to avoid going home for the holidays.” Additionally, the strength of the American dollar may be leading travelers to destinations like London, Paris, Madrid, and Tokyo, the Kayak team says. 

And the wishlist continues to grow. Cities showing the biggest growth in searches on Expedia for the Christmas holiday include Bangkok, Vancouver, New Orleans, and Maui.

“If you think back to last Christmas, there were still COVID-19 travel restrictions in play and new variants that impacted some travelers’ plans during the holiday season,” Fish said. “This year, Expedia is seeing travelers excited to spend the holidays away from home or with their loved ones, whether that’s with a beach vacation or a city break. What better way to celebrate the end of the year and start the new one off refreshed and reenergized?” 


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