Summer vacation may seem like a not-so-distant memory, but travel experts say it’s already time to start watching prices for holiday travel.
Yes, even with Thanksgiving 62 days away and 89 more days until Christmas, now is the time to start zeroing in on travel dates and time off.
“We recommend that travelers who are planning to fly for Thanksgiving and Christmas start tracking prices now and expect to book their flights for both holidays before Halloween,” Hayley Berg, chief economist at travel booking platform Hopper.com, told NBC News.
Anyone who has ever waited until the last minute to book, or even the final few weeks before a holiday, has likely paid a premium for waiting. Berg expects prices will once again jump around this year and will only get higher as the holidays get closer.
In the three weeks before each holiday, prices climb by an average of $5 to $10 each day, making it even more expensive for last minute planners, according to Hopper.com data. Ticket prices for Thanksgiving and Christmas are expected to change 100 times between now and the holidays, mostly going up.
“Start watching prices now, tracking them with a price monitoring software is a great idea and plan to book before the end of October,” she said.
Ticket prices for Thanksgiving and Christmas are expected to change 100 times between now and the holidays — and mostly increase.
Hopper, Google Flights, and Skyscanner are a few services that send people alerts letting them know when there’s been a price change on a flight they’re watching.
When you depart for the start of a trip can also make a big difference. For Thanksgiving travelers, booking a ticket to leave the Sunday or Monday before the holiday is on average 20 percent cheaper than waiting until later in the week to depart, according to Hopper.com. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are also typically the cheapest days to depart.
The good news is, there are also plenty of deals to be found. Prices are currently running 4 percent cheaper than last year for Thanksgiving. Christmas tickets are 9 percent cheaper compared to this time last year, according to Hopper.
Last year was the busiest holiday travel season on record, according to AAA. An estimated 112.5 million people traveled by car, train and airplane. Of those, 6.7 million people traveled by air.
The grounded fleet of Boeing 737 Max airplanes could also affect how airlines operate this holiday season. United and American Airlines are hoping their fleet of grounded Max jets will be cleared for takeoff to help them accommodate the holiday travel rush. If not, both airlines will have fewer planes to fly.
Customers flying United will have the option to re-book on a different aircraft if they feel uncomfortable flying the 737 Max, United’s CEO Oscar Munoz told NBC News’ Tom Costello. The plane was grounded in March after a flaw in an automated feature was blamed for two deadly crashes.
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