Personal finance

Buy your holiday airfare by mid October — it’s ‘the best time to book,’ economist says

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If you want a good deal on airfare for the fall and winter holidays, get ready to book.

“The best time to book is between today and the second week of October, as prices are low and there are a lot of seats left to book,” Hayley Berg, lead economist at Hopper, said Thursday.

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Now is the time to start monitoring prices and decide what your travel plans will be so you can book at the best price quickly. Here’s what to know.

‘Prices will start to rise after about Oct.14th’

Travelers are seeing cheaper flights this year. Domestic round-trip fares over Thanksgiving are averaging $268 per ticket, down 14% compared to last year. For Christmas, prices are about $400 round-trip, down 12% from last year, per Hopper data.

Ticket prices will go up as more travelers book their trips and flights come closer to selling out. While there may be some deals available through the end of October, don’t wait it out if you have set travel dates in mind between school or work.

“Prices will start to rise after about Oct. 14th for both Thanksgiving and Christmas trips,” Berg said. “Plan to book as soon as possible, as prices will rise each day as the holidays approach.”

Flight prices are likely to spike significantly each day in the last three weeks ahead of each holiday, Hopper anticipates.

Secure your flight and confirm your seating

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Weather and air traffic disruptions caused a lot of turmoil for holiday travelers last year. Given the demand for holiday flights, it’s worth planning with the potential for such delays or cancellations in mind.

Fares will likely become increasingly competitive as travelers wait, “judging by the number of people traveling this year,” said Elizabeth Ayoola, a personal finance writer at NerdWallet. 

“Those determined to avoid the summer crowds and heat may be planning to travel during the holidays, driving prices up,” said Ayoola.

Holiday travel numbers are expected to resemble or surpass results from 2019, wrote Phil Dengler, co-founder and head of editorial and marketing of travel site The Vacationer.

Take one of the first flights of the day if possible. You’re two times more likely to be affected by flight delays or cancellations after 8:00 a.m., Berg said.

While nonstop flights are often more expensive, they can help travelers bypass the risk of missing connections due to a flight disruption.

Travelers might also look into travel insurance, and brushing up on your rights if your travel plans are interrupted.

Moreover, if you are not flexible on the specific flight you need to take, “ensure you have a seat on your desired flight,” Berg added.

While picking your seat can come at an additional cost with most airlines, it may serve as a peace of mind for travelers.

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