Travelers were able to enjoy lower airfare prices this summer, but with the holidays approaching, they should brace themselves for both higher prices and longer lines at the airport, one expert warned.
Thanksgiving and Christmas are two of the most traveled holidays on the calendar as people visit family and friends across the country. According to TSA checkpoint data, roughly 2.3 million people traveled the day before Thanksgiving in 2021 and around 2.1 million people did so the day before Christmas Eve.
“We’re expecting to see a huge surge in travel over this holiday season,” Hopper Lead Economist Hayley Berg said on Yahoo Finance Live (see video above).
In 2020, travel was extremely limited due to the severity of the coronavirus pandemic. While vaccines became readily available in 2021, the delta and omicron variants forced many travelers to scale back on their vacation plans over the holidays.
"We know that travelers have pent-up demand for holiday travel traditions, visiting family, vacations, and we're expecting to see a very busy holiday season," Berg said. "And with that super high demand, we're expecting to see the highest prices, especially for Christmas, that we’ve seen in more than five years.”
According to Hopper's 2022 Holiday Travel Outlook, the average price of a domestic plane ticket is $350 for Thanksgiving travel and $463 for Christmas travel. These prices are 22% higher than in 2019 and 43% more than in 2021.
International travel is also costly — according to the Hopper report, a flight around Thanksgiving is on average $795 per ticket.
What to do as a traveler
Berg shared several recommendations for how to navigate the busy traveling season.
"If you're traveling for Thanksgiving, your best bet is to travel on Monday before Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving Day if you can," she said. "Do not try to fly home on that weekend after Thanksgiving. Those will be the busiest airports and the highest prices."
For Christmas, since the holiday is on a weekend this year, travel will likely be dispersed across several days beforehand, Berg said.
"As early as you can travel for the holidays in December, the better off you are in terms of price but also availability of flights," she said. "Capacity is lower this year than it was in 2019, so flights will set out and they will sell out early."
Berg also cautioned against planning a last-minute trip during the holiday season, which is a trend that's become more prevalent coming out of the coronavirus pandemic.
"That means it's harder to find deals," she said. "If you're not planning far in advance using a price monitoring tool, it's harder to find those one-time price drops or sales that are going to help you get a great deal."
Ethan is a writer for Yahoo Finance.