It's not even Halloween and prices for travel over the Thanksgiving holiday are starting to rise.
Five weeks from today will be Thanksgiving Eve and if you're debating whether to go then or over Christmas, Brian Ek, Senior Travel Analyst for Priceline.com says "If you had to choose, Thanksgiving is going to be much cheaper than Christmas."
The average Thanksgiving fare last year was $393, Ek says, while the average Christmas fare was $430. "So it's looking like fares this year are running on a par with last year, which is good news for travelers." (This year Thanksgiving averages $405 and Christmas is up about 5% to $456.)
"It is totally true that the longer you wait, the more you'll pay for holiday tickets," Ek says and, "It's also true that the days you fly will have a huge impact on the price."
For example, on Thanksgiving Ek says:
--On average, the cheapest days to leave for Thanksgiving are November 25 and the 28th (that's right - Thanksgiving Day). The average fare on those days is around $386.
--On average, you'll pay the most for a ticket if you depart on Nov. 26th ($436), or on the 27th ($451). That's when the flights will be most crowded.
--Coming home, you'll pay a premium if you return on that Sunday, Dec. 1 - average fares for returns on that day spike up to $485. Much cheaper to fly on the 29th (short visit, I know), or wait until Tuesday, Dec. 3.
--Look for early morning or late evening flights. They tend to be cheaper.
Ek says there are some great historical trips with a Thanksgiving theme that are very reasonable, like taking in historic Boston or Washington, DC, two trips he's taken and enjoyed.
BOSTON - Nov. 24-30. $895/person, includes roundtrip airfare from New Orleans, and 7 nights at the 4-star Renaissance Boston Waterfront. Price also includes tax. You can see all of Boston's historic sites (North Church, Faneuil Hall, Old Ironsides) then rent a car for the short drive to Plymouth. Tour Plimoth Plantation, go aboard the Mayflower and, if you like, reserve an authentic Thanksgiving dinner featuring food the Pilgrims ate. "Now this is a trip your kids will be talking about to their grandkids," Ek says, "It's that much fun."
WASHINGTON, DC - Nov. 24-30. $712/person. Includes round trip airfare from New Orleans and 7 nights at the 4-star Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill. In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, it's a great time to tour the museums without the crowds. Again, rent a car and drive the two hours down to Colonial Williamsburg, where they'll be prepping for the holidays.
Or for something more exotic:
PUNTA CANA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC. Nov. 24-30, $1191/person. Includes round trip airfare from New Orleans and 6 nights at the all-inclusive 4-star Grand Bahia Principe Punta Cana. Leave your wallet home and forget about Thanksgiving. Relax on the beach, try all of the 7 different restaurants on site (not to mention the 16 bars). Golf is 10 minutes away. And it has a kids club. "This price is the same as what you'd pay in January," Ek says. "In December, the price jumps to $1,400 a person, so Thanksgiving is a deal."
And for the December holidays Ek says:
--The cheapest days to leave are Christmas Eve ($397 average), Christmas Day ($413), Dec. 23 ($433) and Dec. 22 ($476)
--Avoid Dec. 21, which is the most popular departure day, and fares are already averaging $507.
-Avoid returning on Jan. 4. The premium on that day ratchets the price up to $514. Instead, try returning on New Year's Day ($419), New Year's Eve ($425), or Dec. 26 ($431 - I know, another short visit)