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This Year's Top Holiday Travel Predictions & How To Land Cheap Tickets

There's a 21-day booking window to avoid.

​A plane takes off from Montréal–Trudeau International Airport.

A plane takes off from Montréal–Trudeau International Airport.

The holiday season is approaching, and with it comes the anticipation of family gatherings, festive decorations, and… the inevitable spike in airfare prices. According to the latest data from, 2023 holiday travel is shaping up to be pricey for travellers, but there are ways to snag that elusive affordable ticket.

While it may feel a bit odd to think about snow-covered streets, cozy fireplaces, and holiday jingles as the sun beats down relentlessly, savvy travellers know that the early bird gets the worm — or in this case, the deal. The sizzling temperatures might make holiday travel the furthest thing from your mind, but planning now can ensure you aren’t left in the cold when prices skyrocket.

So, before you resign yourself to a hefty travel bill or reconsider your next trip, here are this year's trends and predictions to help you plan ahead.

Soaring seasonal prices

You might wonder why there's such a drastic difference in airline ticket pricing around the holiday season. It isn't just about demand; it's about the psychology of travellers. The holiday season invokes feelings of nostalgia and the desire to be close to loved ones. Airlines recognize the surge in emotion-driven travel and adjust their prices accordingly. Interestingly, even during economic downturns, the urge to reconnect with family often trumps financial constraints.

Fortunately, based on 11,000 tracked airfares, found certain days offer a price break amid the mayhem. If you're looking to stretch your Canadian dollar further, then this report might just be your guiding star.

While Canadians will have wrapped up their Thanksgiving celebrations in October, the late November surge in airfare primarily caters to our southern neighbours. But, that doesn't mean Canadians can't benefit from these trends:

  • November 20: If you're looking to embark on an early holiday getaway, Monday offers some tempting prices.
  • November 22: Typically one of the priciest days due to the American Thanksgiving rush. However, this year, it isn't much more expensive than other days, giving travellers a bit of a reprieve.
  • November 23 and 24: These dates are the silver lining for Canadians looking to travel around the U.S. during Thanksgiving. Opt for a flight on the holiday itself or the day after, and you could save upwards of $100.

The festive season intensifies in December, and choosing the right date can make all the difference. The data suggests a busy flight season across the board, reinforcing the age-old advice: early birds get the best fares.

  • December 22: With Christmas on a Monday, the preceding weekend sees the steepest prices.
  • December 24-25: Christmas Eve and Day offer a financial breather, with potential savings of around $120 compared to the 22nd. It might be worth considering these dates for a memorable holiday flight experience.
  • January 1: The New Year offers a fresh start and relatively fresh prices. Flying on New Year's Day can be as affordable as the following day, allowing for some flexibility in your travel plans.
While the thought of flying on Christmas Day might initially seem counter-intuitive, always keep in mind that airports are quieter, making check-ins, security checks, and boarding more comfortable. Plus, flight attendants are often in better spirits, translating to better in-flight service. Sometimes, you might even find yourself on a flight with several empty seats, offering the luxury of space. For those without stringent Christmas morning traditions, taking to the skies off-peak can be a serene experience, complemented by lower airfares.

Strategies for saving

Beyond the specific dates, there are some tried and true tactics that can help you secure those coveted cheap tickets:

  1. Plan Ahead: For those eyeing domestic Canadian flights, booking 2-3 months prior to the festive season can yield considerable savings.
  2. Flexibility Pays: Slight adjustments to your travel dates can lead to substantial fare differences. It's worth checking costs for days surrounding your ideal departure and return.
  3. Dodge the Peak: Flying just before or after the peak holiday rush can translate to fewer crowds and more reasonable prices.
  4. Mixing It Up: Opting for two individual one-way tickets can sometimes trump the costs and convenience of a traditional round trip.
  5. The Early Advantage: Morning flights tend to experience fewer delays and offer a smoother travel experience.
  6. Beware of Hidden Costs: Attractive fares can sometimes mask additional fees. Always factor in costs like baggage fees and other extras.
  7. Procrastination Penalties: As departure dates approach, ticket prices surge. Avoid bookings within the 21-day period leading up to your desired departure. Fares typically soar 21, 14, seven, and three days before the departure date.
  8. Alternative Airports: Sometimes flying into a smaller nearby airport instead of a major one can lead to significant savings. Not only could you score a cheaper ticket, but car rental prices and parking fees might also be lower.

September sweet spot

According to the report, if there's a golden time to secure the most affordable airfares ahead of the holiday season, it's September. While many may associate the autumn month with back-to-school and changing leaves, it's also an opportune time to think ahead about holiday travels. Airlines often adjust their pricing algorithms based on demand and supply, along with fuel costs, and data shows September emerge as a sweet spot for fare reductions. Before the rush truly sets in and prices begin their upward trajectory, securing your tickets in September can put you ahead of the curve, ensuring both savings and peace of mind.

There's an undeniable comfort in knowing you've got everything sorted well in advance. Early planning doesn't just save on costs; it offers psychological peace. With tickets booked, you're free to focus on other aspects of your journey, whether that's itinerary planning, gift shopping, or just getting into the holiday spirit. Research has shown that the anticipation of a trip can sometimes provide as much joy, if not more, than the trip itself. By booking early, you're giving yourself a longer runway of happy anticipation.

So, while the 2023 holiday season might be pricier when it comes to air travel, a strategic approach and informed decisions can ensure you celebrate without breaking the bank. Safe travels!

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