Thanksgiving Travel 2013 Top 5: Book Early, Be Flexible
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) If you're one of the 93 million travelers expected to hit the road or take to the skies this Thanksgiving, experts say you should book your tickets and rental cars before the end of September in order to snag the best deals. Thanksgiving travel prices are already up by more than 10% over this time last year, and travelers who wait to book until November could end up paying as much as 60% more than those who get in early, according to travel search engine Hipmunk. We checked in with travel-savvy professionals to get the low-down on how to keep Thanksgiving travel prices and stress as low as possible.
1.) Book between Sept. 20-30.
"There seems to be something of a sweet spot about 60 days prior to Thanksgiving," says Peggy Goldman, president of Friendly Planet travel agency. "You can't buy too far in advance because it seems as though the airlines hold the very good fares until around two months out, but we've been able to pretty consistently buy low fares by looking at the 60-day mark."
Airfare for Thanksgiving 2012 travel increased exponentially as the holiday approached, according to Hipmunk, with travelers who waited just one month after Labor Day to book paying on average $502.77, a 35% price increase from those who booked 60 days or more in advance. This year, travelers booking the week before Thanksgiving could end up paying more than $200 per ticket over those who book early.
Thanksgiving travel has already seen a bigger spike than usual this year, according to Chris Cuddy, chief commercial officer of CheapOair.com.
"We've seen people booking earlier than ever before, almost 20% more than this time last year," Cuddy says. "It might feel like it's too early, but this is the busiest travel holiday we've got, and I think more and more people are getting conscious of locking something in. People shouldn't wait for a better deal Thanksgiving is going to come sooner than you think."
2.) Stay flexible with travel dates and airports.
"If you are restricted to departing on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and returning the Sunday or Monday after Thanksgiving, you're set up for the most expensive travel parameters," Goldman says.
Travelers who have a little "wiggle room" and can return on a Saturday or later in the week after Thanksgiving will find a lot more choice in how much they spend on a fare, she says. For travelers who may have a late dinner planned on Thanksgiving, it may be smart to consider traveling on Thanksgiving morning or Thanksgiving Day.
"Thanksgiving Day is a great time to fly because everyone wants to be where they are going. If you can get to your celebration later that night by flying that morning, chances are good that you will snag a good fare," she says. "This may be tough if you have to go cross country, but a very early flight could still get you in in time for dinner."