When to Book Christmas Flights – Travel Guide & Tips for 2024
Despite being one of the most popular times of the year to fly, Christmas travel can be affordable. Flexibility is essential, however. Our 2023 Christmas Travel Survey shows 50.44%, or nearly 131 million American adults, will travel for Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa
This article will detail when to book Christmas flights as well as focus on the best days to travel. Additionally, it will provide tips on scoring cheap hotels and rental cars around the holiday season.
Table of Contents
When is Christmas 2023?
Christmas Day this year is on Monday, December 25, 2023. Due to it being on a different day of the week every year, the best and worst days to fly around Christmas vary.
What Are the Best and Worst Times to Book Christmas Flights?
I recommend booking Christmas flights in the summer. The months of June, July, and August often see cheap prices for a variety of different flight routes. Early through middle September is also a good time to book. While other sources recommend waiting (Google recently said to wait until October to book Christmas flights), I think it is too late for these reasons.
- Lower Inventory – Desirable flights are already sold out. Instead of a nonstop flight, you may have to settle for a connection.
- The Best Seats Sold Out – Most aisle and window seats may be gone. You may have to settle for a middle seat.
- Fewer Hotels and Rental Cars – While you can book your hotel and rental car before booking your flight, I generally do not recommend it; Our advice is to pick your travel dates based on the cheapest days to fly. Waiting to book your Christmas flight until October or later means your selection of accommodations and rental cars goes down.
The goal is to select between a variety of cheap flights. While Google’s recommendation of waiting until October may still see cheap deals, there are fewer options during that time. Here is how I rank the different periods to purchase Christmas airfare.
- June, July, and August – Best combination of inventory and cheap prices
- Early through Middle September – Still a great time
- Early October – Google’s recommendation. Cheap prices but lower inventory
- Thanksgiving – Book Christmas flights by Thanksgiving at the latest
- December – High prices and poor flights (connections, middle seats, bad times, etc.)
What Are the Best Days to Fly Around Christmas 2023?
Here are our predictions for the best days to fly for Christmas this year. To get these days, we analyzed Christmas flight data from previous years. We also sampled prices from hundreds of routes around the end of December.
Best Departure Dates
- Monday, December 18
- Tuesday, December 19
- Wednesday, December 20
- Sunday, December 24 (Christmas Eve)
- Monday, December 25 (Christmas Day)
Fly early during Christmas week. Most people get in a few days of work before flying out later in the week. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are traditionally great days to fly, but you run the risk of being late or missing events.
Best Return Dates
- Thursday, December 28
- Friday, December 29
Many people will fly home on the Tuesday or Wednesday after Christmas to get back to work. If you can, fly home later in the week on Thursday or Friday.
What Are the Worst Days to Fly Around Christmas 2023?
Here are the worst days to fly around Christmas. As with our best days, we reviewed data from previous years as well as sampled hundreds of routes around Christmas week.
Worst Departure Dates
- Thursday, December 21
- Friday, December 22
- Saturday, December 23
As previously noted, many people will work the first few days of Christmas week. For that reason, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday will be busy travel days. If you can, fly earlier in the week or opt for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
Worst Return Dates
- Tuesday, December 26
- Wednesday, December 27
The first few days after Christmas Day are always popular times to fly home. Wait until Thursday, December 28 if you can.
The Vacationer Tip
Book your Christmas flight with a travel-focused credit card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, and The Platinum Card® from American Express. These cards earn bonus points or miles on flight bookings as well offer important benefits like travel insurance.
Christmas Flight Booking Tips
The tips from our How to Find Cheap Flights guide work for Christmas, with a few caveats.
Book as Early as Possible – We recommend booking Christmas flights in the summer. Most people are not thinking about holiday travel in the summer, which means many affordable, desirable flights are available. Summer is the best time to book, but do not wait until after Thanksgiving.
Book Early Morning Nonstop Flights – Christmas travel often sees significant delays and cancellations due to bad weather and the sheer number of people flying. Opt for nonstop flights taking off as early as possible. While very early morning flights are no fun, they are much less likely to experience an interruption than those departing later in the day.
Use Google Flights to Book Directly With the Airline – Google Flights is the best tool to use to find cheap Christmas flights. If your destination is not set, use the Google Flights Explore Map to find cheap places to fly. After finding your ideal flight, book it directly with the airline. The benefit in doing that is you get to deal with your airline’s customer service directly, as opposed to a middleman had you booked with an OTA (online travel agency).
Use Our Best & Worst Days to Fly Recommendations – Consider our date recommendations when picking your travel dates. Remember, the flight is often the most expensive part of a vacation, so stay flexible with your dates. Use Google Flights calendar view to confirm our date recommendations for your particular route. While our date recommendations are cheap on average, they may not be the cheapest for every route.
Opt for Domestic Flights Over International Flights – While Thanksgiving is a great time to fly internationally, the same is not necessarily true for Christmas. That is mainly due to Thanksgiving being an American holiday, while Christmas is more widely celebrated. Great Christmas flight deals do exist, but there tend to be more on Thanksgiving.
Consider Avoiding Destinations With Extreme Winter Weather – Consider traveling to a destination that is less susceptible to snow and other extreme winter weather. While it is not a guaranteed method to avoid disruptions, it increases your odds.
Best Destinations to Fly to Over Christmas This Year for Cheap
Here are some of the best places to fly to over Christmas this year. This is only a small sample of the many great deals available. To find more, use the Google Flights Explore feature. Simply enter your departure airport and dates, and Google will show you the cheapest places to fly to around Christmas!
Here are a few of the best domestic routes we found for Christmas this year. Please note that these prices are subject to change. All routes are nonstop. It is more than possible to book a domestic roundtrip flight for $150 or less. Many routes are available for under $200.
- Boston to Baltimore for $94 roundtrip via American Airlines from Tuesday, December 19 through Thursday, December 28
- Philadelphia to Tampa for $113 roundtrip via Frontier Airlines from Tuesday, December 19 through Thursday, December 28
- Chicago to New York (LGA) for $138 roundtrip via United Airlines from Wednesday, December 20 through Friday, December 29.
- Philadelphia to Charleston for $243 roundtrip via American Airlines from Tuesday, December 19 through Thursday, December 28
Here are a few of the best international routes we found for Christmas this year. Please note that these prices are subject to change. All routes are nonstop. It is more than possible to book an international roundtrip flight for $400 or less. Many routes are available for under $600
- Phoenix to Calgary for $163 roundtrip via Flair Airlines from Wednesday, December 20 through Friday, December 29.
- Boston to Aruba for $418 roundtrip via Delta Airlines from Tuesday, December 19 through Thursday, December 28
- Philadelphia to Montreal for $458 roundtrip via Air Canada from Tuesday, December 19 through Thursday, December 28
- Miami to Paris for $628 roundtrip via Norse Atlantic Airways from Tuesday, December 19 through Thursday, December 28
- Los Angeles to London for $774 roundtrip via Norse Atlantic UK from Tuesday, December 19 through Thursday, December 28
Avoiding Christmas Flight Cancellations and Delays
Christmas is one of the most hectic times of the year to fly, and the potential for snowstorms adds to the chaos. Here are ways to avoid experiencing a significant delay or cancellation during Christmas travel.
Book a Very Early Morning Nonstop Flight – As noted above, this decreases your odds of experiencing a delay or cancellation. Even if your flight is interrupted, there is a good chance you will not be stranded the entire day (unless severe weather like snow grounds all flights).
Avoid Budget Airlines – Unfortunately, budget airlines seem to struggle with flight interruptions and the aftermath worse than other airlines. I recommend paying a little more to fly with one of the more reliable airlines.
Know Your Rights Before Booking – If your flight around Christmas is significantly delayed or canceled for any reason (including bad weather), you are entitled to a full cash refund. Additionally, many airlines have made commitments to provide compensation due to controllable flight delays and cancellations. Unfortunately, compensation is not promised for interruptions due to weather.
Make Sure Your Credit Card Offers Travel Insurance – It is important to protect yourself when flying during the busy Christmas season. The weather is often bad around the country, so there is a real chance one of your flights will experience a delay or cancellation. Use a credit card offering travel insurance to book your flight. Depending on your card, you may be eligible for compensation if your flight is interrupted due to uncontrollable reasons like the weather.
While the flight is often the most expensive part of any Christmas trip or vacation, it is also important to save money on hotels and car rentals. Here are a few tips.
Find and Book Refundable Hotels and Car Rentals – Lock in the highest price you are willing to pay. Continue monitoring hotel and car rental prices, and rebook if you find a better deal.
Do Not Wait Until the Last Minute – Like your Christmas flight, book your hotel and car rental many months before December. This gives you a large inventory to choose from as well as enough time to monitor and rebook.
The Vacationer’s Final Thoughts
With travel fully recovered, expect airports to be packed around Christmas this year. If you have not booked your flight yet, book as soon as possible. Opt for an early morning, nonstop flight, and use Google Flights to find the best prices. Check your credit card’s travel insurance benefits to see what is offered for trip delays and interruptions. Finally, consider avoiding cold weather destinations during Christmas to minimize weather-related delays.
Get The Vacationer Newsletter
Get highlights of the most important news delivered to your email inbox