Don’t dawdle: It’s time to shop for Thanksgiving, Christmas flights


With summer travel behind us it’s time to start planning holiday getaways. And if you’re trying to score a cheap Thanksgiving or Christmastime flight back home, listen up. Buzz60’s Susana Victoria Perez has more.


The turkey fixins and Christmas gifts can wait, but there’s one holiday chore that shouldn’t be put off much longer if your plans include travel: shopping for an airline ticket.

There are no magical dates for booking holiday flights or any flights, as prices change by the minute due to competition and other factors, but travel experts who comb through past holiday booking data and travel trends say there are dates to keep an eye on.

The best shopping window for Thanksgiving and Christmas flights began Sept. 25 for the best deals and availability and runs for a month, according to AAA, the national travel agency and automobile club.

Hopper, an airfare prediction and travel booking app, recommends booking any Thanksgiving or Christmas flights by Halloween for the best deals.

“You’re in a sweet spot right now for the holidays,” said Paula Twidale, vice president of travel for AAA.

Twidale isn’t traveling for the holidays this year, but when she does, this is the time of year she’s in “panic mode” trying to solidify flights.

Wait too long, she said, and the choices dwindle.

“You are subject to not getting what you want … and having to do multiple stops,” she said.

Complicating matters this holiday travel season: the prolonged grounding of the Boeing 737 Max following two fatal crashes in five months.

Three of the four biggest U.S. carriers – American, United and Southwest – had the planes in their fleets when it was grounded by the FAA on March 13.

And they expected to have even more of the planes in their fleets by this time. Southwest had 34 Max 8s at the grounding and planned to have more than double that by the end of the year. 

Bottom line: Southwest’s seat capacity is down 8% as the holiday travel season approaches.

Fewer seats lead to a supply-demand imbalance and the potential for higher fares. Southwest Chief Financial Officer Tammy Romo said the airline has had to reduce some flights on peak holiday travel dates.

“You might want to make that (booking) decision earlier rather than later to protect yourself,” Twidale said.

Southwest, American and United have already taken the plane out of their schedules over the busy Thanksgiving holiday travel season, and Southwest has taken it out until after the new year.

Boeing 737 Max fallout: How an 8 a.m. nonstop turned into an evening flight with a stop

Holiday travel booking tips

1. For Thanksgiving flights, you’ll find the best deals on Monday, Nov. 25 and Thanksgiving Day, according to AAA and Hopper.

2. For Christmas flights, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are the most affordable. The next best option, according to Hopper, Dec. 23.

3. When comparing airlines, don’t forget to factor in baggage fees. Most major airlines charge $30 for the first checked bag and $40 for the second bag. Southwest allows two free checked bags, but its fares can be higher on many routes. Budget airlines like Spirit, Frontier and Allegiant also charge for carry-on bags. 

4. The lowest fares on American, Delta and United are called basic economy fares. Make sure you know the restrictions, which are detailed during booking. United doesn’t allow basic economy ticket holders to bring a standard size carry-on. You have to check it for a fee.

5. Seat selection fees, a charge to pick an advance seat assignment, are prevalent on most airlines except Southwest, and they add up. Make sure you know what you’re getting – or not getting – for your money. “Preferred” seats are simply ordinary seats airlines consider in high demand, such as window, middle and aisle seats near the front of the plane, while the pricier extra legroom seats come with extra legroom and, in some cases, other perks.

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Cape May, New Jersey • For seasonal events, wineries and more attractions without the summer heat and crowds, try Cape May, New Jersey, this fall. The perfect way to learn about America’s oldest seaside resort is on a trolley tour, which even offers ghost-themed rides. To learn more about the area’s Victorian heritage, there is Victorian Weekend in October, promising history, murder mysteries, historic house tours and food. AwakenedEye / Getty ImagesTybee Island, Georgia • This popular seaside spot can still be enjoyed in the fall, but without the crowds. Located about 30 minutes from downtown Savannah, this Georgia barrier island is known for its wide, pristine beaches and has been a vacation destination since the late 1800s. With the summer heat fading, it’s still an ideal time to enjoy the weather and scenery of the island, whether you are kayaking, sailing or biking. For something more unique, there is the annual Pirate Festival, with costumes, a Thieves and Gypsies Market and activities for adults and kids. Witthaya Prasongsin / Getty Images

  • Summer may benbsp;peak vacation season, but if you are looking for a getaway in the fall, many destinations across the U.S. offer milder temperatures, lighter crowds and hotel bargains. Scroll through the gallery to see weekend trips you can plan right now for the fall, from 24/7 Wall Street.1 of 35
  • strongWoodstock, Vermontnbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;If yoursquo;re looking for a quaint village with picturesque scenery, then Woodstock, Vermont is a great fall weekend trip, and a manageable drive from major cities such as Boston and New York. Located on the banks of the Ottauquechee River and among the Green Mountains, Woodstock features the only national park in Vermont, a href= National Historical Park/a, and three historic covered bridges.2 of 35
  • strongWhite Mountains, New Hampshirenbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;The White Mountains region of New Hampshire offers many ways to enjoy the fall colors. See what nature has to offer in the comfort of your car via one of the many scenic drives, such as the a href= Scenic Byway/a through the a href= Mountain National Forest/a. Visitors can also take a hop on the a href= Scenic Railroad/a or a gondola ride to the top of a mountain mdash; and even enjoy a snowless dog sled tour from mid-September to November.3 of 35
  • strongNewport, Rhode Islandnbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;Summer may seem like the ideal time to visit Newport, Rhode Island, but fall visitors can enjoy many of the same amenities the area has to offer without the crowds ndash; and with lower hotel rates. For a more interesting hotel option, try the a href= Island Lighthouse/a, where you can stay in the historic lighthouse on an 18-acre island. There are plenty of upscale dining options, including the a href= Horse Tavern /awith its fireside ambience.nbsp;4 of 35
  • strongBerkshires, Massachusettsnbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;Full of foliage, museums and history, the Berkshire Mountains, located in western Massachusetts, offer plenty to do for the autumn traveler. For a scenic road trip, take a drive up a href= Greylock/a, the highest peak in Massachusetts. Nature enthusiasts can also hike part of the Appalachian Trail or take a fall foliage train ride.5 of 35
  • strongMartharsquo;s Vineyard, Massachusettsnbsp;/strongbull; Beloved by celebrities and politicians, a href=;s Vineyard/a in fall offers ideal temperatures, fewer people, and a food and wine festival. Theyre all about 7 miles and anbsp; a a href= ferry ride from Cape Cod/a.nbsp;The islandrsquo;s population balloons from about 17,000 in the off-season to as high as 100,000 in the summer. Fall visitors can take in the beautiful scenery and beaches and shopping and dining options with more breathing room.6 of 35
  • strongBoston, Massachusettsnbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;The fall weather and foliage make it a good time to see Bostonrsquo;s many historic sites, especially by foot. Visitors can walk the two-and-a-half-mile Freedom Trail, and take a step back in time through the a href= Massacre Site/a, a href= Revere House/a, a href= Hill Monument/a and more. If you are not up for all the walking, learn about these landmarks on an a href= Trolley Tour/a. For a more seasonal option, learn about the cityrsquo;s haunted history through a ghost tour.nbsp;7 of 35
  • strongNiagara Falls, New York/Canadanbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;Whether you choose to visit the American or Canadian side of the falls, autumn at Niagara promises beautiful scenery and fun activities. Starting in the U.S., visitors can stop by the countryrsquo;s oldest state park, where there are easy hiking trails to take in the changing leaves. You can also ride the a href= Scenic Trolley/a or splurge for a helicopter ride to get an aerial view of the falls and foliage. Later relax with a tasting on the a href= Wine Trail/a or at a local brewery.nbsp;8 of 35
  • strongCatskills, New Yorknbsp;/strongbull;strong /strongThe ideal fall destination for New Yorkers, the Catskills offer wonderful scenery whether driving or hiking. Fall foliage usually peaks around the second week in October, and for a more daring way to see nature, try a a href= adventure tour/a at Hunter Mountain. The area is also filled with fun festivals, from the largest motorcycle festival in upstate New York in East Durham to an a href= at Hunter Mountain/a featuring a cider tasting event.9 of 35
  • strongCooperstown, New Yorknbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;Baseball season may peak in summer, but the real thrill is the fall, with the best teams competing in the playoffs. The same can be said for Cooperstown, located about 150 miles north of Penn Station in New York City and home to the a href= target=_blankBaseball Hall of Fame/a. Beyond baseball, the area also offers fall foliage amid the mountains and Otsego Lake.nbsp;10 of 35
  • strongNew York, New Yorknbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;There is always a good excuse to visit New York City, but the fall weather is ideal for sightseeing, with the added bonus of seasonal events. The Big Apple is famous for its dining scene, but in autumn there are special events for foodies, including the a href= York Coffee Festival/a and a href= Chocolate Show/a. During a href= House New York/a weekend in October, you can check out 250 normally off-limits NYC sites, including architectural works and historic buildings.nbsp;11 of 35
  • strongPoconos, Pennsylvanianbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;For family-friendly events among the foliage, the Poconos have a lot to offer fall visitors. There are many ways to see the changing leaves from hiking, biking and scenic drives to horseback riding, a sightseeing train and air tours. For more thrills, try a local adventure park, with an aerial ropes course, all-season tubing, zip lines and bungee trampolines. More leisurely activities include golf, fishing and boating.12 of 35
  • strongPhiladelphia, Pennsylvanianbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;Fall weather may provide the perfect conditions for checking out the historic sites of a href=, but the season also offers visitors an array of festivals. With more than 50 festivals and events during the fall, the City of Brotherly Love has something for every taste, including several Oktoberfests. One of the most notable fall events is a href= Festival/a, featuring local, national and international artists and progressive performances.13 of 35
  • strongCape May, New Jerseynbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;For seasonal events, wineries and more attractions without the summer heat and crowds, try Cape May, New Jersey, this fall. The perfect way to learn about Americarsquo;s oldest seaside resort is on a trolley tour, which even offers ghost-themed rides. To learn more about the arearsquo;s Victorian heritage, there is a href= Weekend/a in October, promising history, murder mysteries, historic house tours and food.14 of 35
  • strongWashington, D.C.nbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;For comfortable weather while sightseeing among the changing leaves, fall may be the perfect time to visit the nationrsquo;s capital. After checking out the historical sites, see more scenery at one of the cityrsquo;s many parks and gardens, including the U.S. National Arboretum, featuring one of North Americarsquo;s largest collections of bonsai trees. Itrsquo;s also noted as one of the best places to photograph fall foliage in the city.15 of 35
  • strongWilliamsburg, Virginianbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;Home to the worldrsquo;s largest living history museum, a fall trip to Williamsburg, Virginia, promises mild temperatures, changing leaves and special events. History and nature lovers can enjoy a hike on the a href= Greenway Interpretative Trail/a, where they can enjoy the foliage and retrace the footsteps of the Virginia Indians and early colonists.16 of 35
  • strongAsheville, North Carolinanbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;Featuring quot;one of the longest and most vibrant leaf seasons,quot; the Blue Ridge Mountain area is ideal for nature lovers. Before arriving, you can check out the regionrsquo;s fall color report, map, and leaves schedule at a href=, then take a scenic drive or a brisk hike. For a bigger adventure among the leaves, choose from several zipline tours.17 of 35
  • strongColumbia, South Carolinanbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;There are many places around Columbia, South Carolina, to experience the changing leavesnbsp;ndash;nbsp; from a href= National Park/a and Cayce Riverwalk Park to Main Street. Visitors can take part in numerous festivals throughout the season, including the food-centric a href= Peanut Boil/a, a href= Carolina Oyster Festival/a and the a href= Points Chili Cook-Off/a.nbsp;18 of 35
  • strongHilton Head, South Carolinanbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;Milder weather, fewer people and lower hotel rates make this beach destination worth a fall trip. Bike or walk on a href= Headrsquo;s 64 miles of public pathways/a and nature trails, or stroll along the beach, which can still be enjoyed through the season. Experience the islandrsquo;s local animals with an Island Explorer dolphin tour or an Alligator amp; Wildlife Boat Tour.nbsp;19 of 35
  • strongTybee Island, Georgianbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;This popular seaside spot can still be enjoyed in the fall, but without the crowds. Located about 30 minutes from downtown Savannah, this Georgia barrier island is known for its wide, pristine beaches and has been a vacation destination since the late 1800s. With the summer heat fading, itrsquo;s still an ideal time to enjoy the weather and scenery of the island, whether you are kayaking, sailing or biking.nbsp;For something more unique, there is the annual a href= Festival/a, with costumes, a Thieves and Gypsies Market and activities for adults and kids.20 of 35
  • strongKey West, Floridanbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;The southernmost point in the continental U.S., this island located about 90 miles north of Cuba has plenty of reasons for a visit, from its weather and water to its food, culture and history. In late October, many flock to the city for its famous a href= Fest/a, described as a quot;10-day party in paradise for grown-ups.quot;21 of 35
  • strongMackinac Island, Michigannbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;A fall trip to Mackinac Island promises the quot;best seats on ferries, prime lakeside restaurant tables, wonderfully deserted hiking trails and bargain hotel rates.quot; This national landmark boasts no cars and no chain hotels, for a tranquil vacation. Visitors can experience the islandrsquo;s natural beauty in many ways, from walking and biking to kayaking, horseback riding and even tours by air.nbsp;22 of 35
  • strongSmoky Mountains, Tennesseenbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;Take in the milder weather during what is described as one of the most beautiful times of year in the a href= Mountains/a. The perfect time to see all of the fall colors is usually early to mid-November, when the foliage is at its peak. Beyond the foliage, this area also boasts plenty of activities, including a href=;s Aquarium of the Smokies/a, a href= SpeedPark/a, a href=https://dpstampede.comDolly Partonrsquo;s Dixie Stampede/a, miniature golf courses, indoor skydiving, museums and more.23 of 35
  • strongNashville, Tennesseenbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;The fall is considered Nashvillersquo;s festival season. In early October, visitors can check out a href= of Nashville/a. This yearrsquo;s theme is Tacos and Tequila, where the top taco restaurants will compete for the quot;Best Taco in Nashvillequot; title. Also during this time, there is a href= Nashville/a, featuring 30 internationally inspired food vendors, performances and a world market, and a href= Oktoberfest/a in Germantown, with its 5K Bier Run, Bratwurst Eating Contest and Beer Slide Championship.nbsp;24 of 35
  • strongNew Ulm, Minnesotanbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;Known as the quot;most German city in Americaquot; New Ulm has one of the best Oktoberfest celebrations in the nation. If you attend the festival, you will be sure to meet New Ulmrsquo;s quot;ambassadorsquot; mdash; costumed gnomes. And even if you miss a href= (Oct. 4-5 and 11-12), you can sample a handcrafted beer at a href= Brewery/a, For more sober activities, try shopping at one of New Ulmrsquo;s speciality shops, like the cuckoo clock store, or take in the views from Hermann Monument.25 of 35
  • strongSt. Louis, Missourinbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;For comfortable weather, festivals and a botanical garden outdoor market, check out St. Louis in the fall. Visitors will never run out of special events during the season, starting with the a href= Louis Renaissance Festival,/a the a href= Bottoms Beer Festival/a and the a href= Godfrey Maze/a ndash; a seven-acre corn maze at Glazebrook Park. Or check out one of the cityrsquo;s many haunted houses in October, or take the opportunity to shoot zombies at a haunted paintball park.26 of 35
  • strongNew Orleans, Louisiananbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;Cooler weather and food festivals brings visitors to New Orleans in the fall. Great cuisine is a reason to visit the city anytime of year, but in autumn there are special events for food lovers, including a href= Fest/a, a href=;utm_medium=cpcamp;utm_campaign=conversion_specific_eventsamp;mkwid=s8BDt1nbm|pcrid|286846242907|pkw|%2Bnew%20%2Borleans%20%2Bfried%20%2Bchicken%20%2Bfestival|pmt|b|pdv|c|slid||pgrid|57924156236|ptaid|kwd-487185549498amp;gclid=CjwKCAjw5fzrBRASEiwAD2OSV5LQd--QLa996KLE-kClwY8N1Ic7cNGkoJUGRhM710CSnJYrmDdZChoC79sQAvD_BwEFried Chicken Fest/a and the cityrsquo;s cheese festival ndash;nbsp;a href=;te des Fromages/a. Enjoy both eats and music at the a href= City Blues amp; BBQ Festival/a. a href=, Bourbon amp; Beer/a also features live musical performances, along with handcrafted food and drinks and a cigar lounge.27 of 35
  • strongJackson Hole, Wyomingnbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;With better weather and fewer people than summer, autumn in Jackson Hole offers visitors great fishing, an arts festival and more. During the day, take in the beautiful fall foliage before experiencing breathtaking sunsets. The season also promises the perfect conditions for fishing on the Snake River. Art lovers will enjoy Septemberrsquo;s a href= Hole Fall Arts Festival/a, featuring nationally and internationally acclaimed artists, as well as great music and food.28 of 35
  • strongRocky Mountain Park, Coloradonbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;For must-see scenery in the great outdoors, try Rocky Mountain Park this fall. Autumn is considered the best time to take in the arearsquo;s natural beauty and is ideal for photographers and wildlife enthusiasts alike. To experience the best views of the changing leaves, Rocky Mountain National Park suggests checking out Hidden Valley, the Twin Sisters Trailhead, Bear Lake Road or Glacier Gorge Trail. Visitors can also celebrate the fall foliage at the a href= Gold Festival/a in late September, featuring bands, brats and beer.29 of 35
  • strongPark City, Utahnbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;Park City, Utah, may be known for its skiing, but there are still plenty of reasons to visit the area during the fall. This includes Utah Olympic Park, with its ziplining and sports history. There are several options for spending time outdoors from hiking, biking and horseback riding to golfing, fishing and taking a hot air balloon ride. Visitors can also relax at a spa or with a whiskey tasting at a href= West Distillery./a30 of 35
  • strongAlbuquerque, New Mexiconbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;Fall in Albuquerque features good weather and scenery, seasonal local markets, and the largest hot air balloon festival in the world. Referred to as its quot;magical season,quot; autumn brings foliage best experienced with the cottonwood and willow trees along the Rio Grande, and in the nearby mountains.31 of 35
  • strongLeavenworth, Washingtonnbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;Designed to look like a Bavarian village, Leavenworth, located about two hours east of Seattle, features great food, beer, shops and festivities. Visitors can also take in the seasonrsquo;s scenery with the a href= Leaf Festival/a. If you work up an appetite walking around the village, there are plenty of options, from the a href=;s Shop/a to the outdoor eatery and beer gardennbsp;a href=;nchennbsp;Haus/a.32 of 35
  • strongSonoma County, Californianbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;Experience the colors changing in the vineyards during harvest time in Sonoma County. The area promises special offers for wine lovers, along with beautiful walks through wine country. If you are staying overnight, there are plenty of luxurious resorts, whether you are looking for a romantic getaway, friends weekend or spa retreat. There are also special events during the fall season, including the a href= County Arts Trail/a in mid-October, where over 140 artists open their studios for self-guided tours.33 of 35
  • strongBig Sur, Californianbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;In the fall you can still enjoy peak season at Big Sur, along the coastline of Central California, but without the large summer crowds. Outdoor lovers can hike through eight miles of trails at a href= Big Sur State Park/a, while checking out the arearsquo;s redwood groves and 60-foot waterfall. Animal enthusiasts will love the season for its peak whale-watching or witness hundreds of Monarch butterflies at a href= Molera State Park/a in October as they prepare to migrate for the winter. Visitors can even shop outdoors during October at one of the largest lapidary shows of its type in the world, the a href= Sur Jade Festival/a.34 of 35
  • strongMendocino, Californianbsp;/strongbull;nbsp;With temperatures ranging from the low 50s to low 80s during the fall, this time of year has a lot to offer visitors to Mendocino, along the Northern California coast. You can also explore Mendocinorsquo;s natural beauty by kayaking among the sea caves or hiking on a coastal trail at a href= Headlands Park/a. Beyond nature, there are several must-see festivals during fall, including Novemberrsquo;s Feast Mendocino, highlighting the arearsquo;s mushroom season, or the a href= of Trees/a, kicking off the Christmas season.35 of 35

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