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Best Last Minute Air Travel 2023: Christmas and New Year Flights

Joanna Teljeur
Written By Joanna Teljeur
2 minutes read
Last Updated: December 08, 2023

Christmas is a little over two weeks away, and some travelers are still working out their plans for the fast-approaching holiday. In the perfect case scenario, holiday travel would have been booked months ago, but if your plans are still up in the air, there’s still time to find sweet deals on airfare and scope out insights into your airport experience.

The 2023 Christmas Travel Survey by The Vacationer says that 50% of Amercans plan to embark on Christmas travel - a notable increase from the 43% who chose to travel last year. Meanwhile Hopper’s 2023 Holiday Travel Outlook says that 59% of holiday travelers hope to reunite with friends and family, while 33% are opting for a vacay during the Christmas Break.

Despite the expectations of increased travel, there is some hope if you’re looking to escape the mad crowds and potential flight disruptions this holiday season. Hanukkah starts earlier and Kwanzaa lasts from December 26 to January 1st, so the period right before Christmas might be less congested.

The best travel dates

To determine the best and worst travel dates, The Vacationer poured over hundreds of flight princess across various cities in the U.S., while Hopper tapped into user surveys and proprietary search and booking data. NerdWallet took a different approach by analyzing the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint data from the past four Christmas seasons.

Methodologies aside, all three sources generally agree on the best and worst days to fly during the Christmas holiday. As is often the case, booking morning flights is best not only for better prices but also to cut the risk of cancellations and delays.

If you have a bit more flexibility, the studies suggest traveling on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day since airlines tend to have more seats available on those days and they’re usually offered at lower prices. If you fly on Christmas Day, for instance, you can get fares that average about 26% less than peak prices.

According to forecasts, the best dates to fly for Christmas 2023 are Monday December 18 and Tuesday December 19. If you’re looking for an even more peaceful travel experience, then Sunday December 17th is a good option.

For return flights, it’s best to choose a flight during the week following Christmas like December 28 or 29th.

This year, with Christmas falling on a Monday, December 31st (a Sunday) is expected to be less busy than usual making it a wise choice if you’re trying to avoid crowds and save a little money.

Disrupted flight? You might have a right to compensation - up to €600.Check Your Flight

The worst travel dates

On the other hand, historical TSA data patterns suggest that Friday December 22 and Saturday December 23 will likely be among the top 3 busiest days. For return flights, the days right after Christmas - December 27 and December 30 in particular, have consistently drawn the most travelers.

Strategic planning and flexibility are definitely key in having a stress-free holiday journey. 

If you plan to travel internationally or later in the new year, you can find some insightful information about how to save money on airfare in Best Days and Times to Fly Cheap.

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