Cheapest places to travel for the holidays - The Points Guy (2023)

Finding cheap airfare around the holidays is never an easy task. Combine the overall higher airfare of 2022 with demand that, while tapering off a bit as we come out of the peak summer months, remains high. It's highly likely to surge again for travel in the days surrounding Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.

As TPG reported earlier this month, your best bet to find the cheapest airfare for the major year-end holidays is probably to book sooner rather than later.

But where can you go to avoid overpaying?

Finding good holiday airfare

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One of the things we frequently discuss here at TPG is flexibility: The more flexible you are, the better chance you have to find a good deal. If you’re not tied down to a particular location, specific travel dates, time of day to travel or a particular airline, you’ve maximized your potential for finding a good deal.

Lack of flexibility is exactly what can make the holidays so difficult — and pricey.

Many Thanksgiving travelers, for instance, have schedules that dictate they must leave during the afternoon or evening hours the Wednesday before, to go to a particular destination where their family lives. That doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room for alternative itinerary options.

“Most folks don’t associate Thanksgiving with cheap flights, but that’s because most people are traveling home to visit family,” Scott Keyes, founder of airfare-tracking site Scott’s Cheap Flights told TPG.

To the extent you can skirt those trends, though, you might be able to find better deals — and to some fairly desirable locations at that.

Related: Find cheap airfare using TPG's Deals page

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Finding the cheapest places to travel for Thanksgiving

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If flying overseas for Thanksgiving is something that’s never occurred to you, you’re certainly not alone.

After all, the thought of traveling to a country that doesn’t celebrate one of the most iconic American holidays may seem counterintuitive.

But that’s the whole point, here: It's outside the box.

“Thanksgiving is the hidden best week for international travel,” Keyes said. “All those people traveling domestically are, by definition, not traveling internationally.”

(Video) The Points Guy tells you how to score holiday travel deals

That means Thanksgiving prices for international flights don’t spike at the same rate domestic flights do, and may, in fact, be cheaper than usual.

It’s part of an effort, Keyes said, to make sure airlines fill the planes that are traveling internationally.

Related: Want to skip Thanksgiving? 11 reasons to visit Europe instead

Now, to get your money’s worth and — not to mention the cheapest prices — you may want to take an additional day or two off of work on the front or back end of the holiday period. It could be a great option as you consider Thanksgiving travel.

Here’s some of what we found.

New York travelers: Italy

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Keyes specifically suggests Italy as an “incredible place” to visit over Thanksgiving. He points to cheap fares out of many U.S. cities, and the start of Christmas markets in the country prior to costs rising in December.

There have been a lot of cheap options on flights to Europe of late aboard Portuguese carrier TAP Portugal, which is part of the Star Alliance. With few exceptions, that means you’ll end up making a stop in Lisbon. Double check to make sure it’s not a long layover (unless you’d like to see a second city for the price of one) but there are also some fairly convenient itineraries, albeit with a connection.

For New York travelers, you can depart late Monday night, Thanksgiving week, from Newark/Liberty International Airport (EWR). Arriving in Lisbon late morning Tuesday, you’ll have three hours before the final leg of your trip to Rome.

It’s a bit longer layover, of four-plus hours in Lisbon on the return trip the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

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I also found departures on Thanksgiving night aboard Aer Lingus (with a brief stop in Dublin) and with a Tuesday-after-Thanksgiving return for $484.

San Francisco travelers: Lisbon, Portugal

In addition to taking advantage of the fares offered by the Lisbon-based carriers on your way to another city in Europe, you might also consider traveling to Portugal itself.

It appears some of TAP’s fares have generally driven down fares to Lisbon, and not just from the U.S. East Coast, but also from the West Coast.

A good option for travelers who have to work through the Wednesday leading into Thanksgiving — or at least that morning — is the Sky Team/Flying Blue partners itinerary below. You’ll depart mid-afternoon on Wednesday aboard an Air France Boeing 777 en route to Paris. After a two-plus hour connection in Paris Thursday, you’ll continue on to Lisbon, arriving mid-afternoon.

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On the return trip, there’s an opportunity to take advantage of seeing two cities for the price of one. Departing mid-afternoon Monday, you’ll arrive around dinnertime in Amsterdam. This could give you a chance to have some dinner in the city, before a late-morning departure on KLM Tuesday for the 11-hour haul aboard a Boeing 787 back to San Francisco

The round-trip goes for $385, economy.

Of course, it's worth watching how conditions proceed this fall at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport (AMS) after chaos this summer and recently. However, because Thanksgiving in the U.S. does not coincide with a major holiday in the Netherlands, the airport likely won't see peak demand.

(Video) 'Book now… Don't wait until the last minute': Points Guy on holiday travel deals

Washington, DC, travelers: Dublin

How about an easier itinerary? There are plenty of options to Europe out of Dulles International Airport (IAD).

For $383 round trip, you depart Monday evening before Thanksgiving, flying nonstop aboard Aer Lingus to the carrier’s home city, Dublin. The nonstop return flight is the Tuesday after the holiday.

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Dublin — and, indeed Rome and Lisbon — may not be the type of destinations you’d typically associate with Thanksgiving, but, hey, it’s different.

“If you can stomach skipping Thanksgiving with the family one year, you can fly to Europe for the same price it’d cost to fly to the Midwest,” Keyes said. “Tell your family about the fares and bring them along for a truly unique Thanksgiving overseas.”

What constitutes a good deal?

Defining which cities are offering good deals to visit this holiday season within the U.S. isn’t an exact science. This is because while it may be relatively inexpensive to visit a destination from one U.S. city, prices could be exorbitant if you’re traveling from somewhere else.

It’s also hard to define exactly what a good price is in 2022 because the measuring stick has changed so many times, from the major price spikes we saw during the first half of the year to the slight cooling of upward airfare trends late in the summer, but with pretty lofty projections for what holiday travelers will pay this year.

That being said, one unscientific approach could be to look at average airfares for the holidays and to see if you can find round-trip prices that come in well below that mark.

Booking app Hopper projects average domestic Thanksgiving airfare at $356 round trip, up 41% compared to 2021, and average domestic Christmas airfare at a whopping $467, up 37% from a year ago.

So, certainly, it would be ideal to find prices that come in well below both marks.

Finding the cheapest places to travel for Christmas

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If there’s still hope of finding some decent deals for Thanksgiving, it’s getting harder to say the same about the end-of-year holidays.

“At this point, it’s increasingly difficult to get cheap Christmas fares,” Keyes said. “They were available in June and July, far less in September.”

I searched domestic and Mexico/Caribbean flights in and out of a barrage of U.S. cities. One trend I found to be especially stark for this holiday season is that you can really, really save if you’re traveling between major airline hubs — it's often the case, but especially so around Christmas this year.

Where Hopper points to average domestic fares for Christmas at $467, flights between two hubs within the east or within the west can ensure you pay far below that mark, and in some cases not too much more than you might have paid over the summer for trips to those cities.

New York travelers: Flights to DC and Chicago

It’s not too often you’ll find round-trip airfare between New York and Washington, D.C. for less than $168 on one of the legacy U.S. carriers. So it’s particularly noteworthy to find options at that price level during peak Christmas travel time.

On this itinerary, you’ll depart just after the close of business on Friday, Dec. 23 from LaGuardia Airport (LGA) aboard United Airlines, landing at Dulles, outside D.C., by dinnertime. You have a variety of return options, including this late-night flight back on Dec. 28.

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Oftentimes travelers moving between New York and D.C. might consider other options like the train. However, keep in mind that air travel still won the day in TPG’s race over the summer.

(Video) The Points Guy: Hottest places to travel

Flights to Chicago aren’t quite as cheap — but this $218 round trip is a reminder that you can save on holiday flights if you’re willing to travel on the holiday itself. Enjoy Christmas morning (and in fact, most of the day) in New York before departing from Newark/Liberty International Airport (EWR) for O’Hare International Airport (ORD) just after 6:30 p.m. Christmas night. Return on Dec. 30 for the best fare. This itinerary is also on United.

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Other East Coast and Midwest cities: Flights to New York

Just as flights from New York are trending far below holiday averages, so, too, are flights to the city. I found trips to New York beginning with a Christmas Eve departure — all on United — for $178 out of Atlanta, $165 out of the D.C. area and $218 out of Chicago

West Coast travelers: Flights between San Francisco/Los Angeles and Phoenix/Seattle

In the same way flights between key eastern hubs helps keep your trip cost well below domestic Christmas averages, the same could be said for flights between key western hubs.

Los Angeles travelers can fly to Phoenix mid-day on Christmas Day, with a morning return on New Year’s Eve for $198 aboard Delta Air Lines.

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Los Angeles and San Francisco flyers can visit Seattle for $238 round trip between either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and the days leading up to New Year’s Eve. Those flights were on some combination of Alaska Airlines or Delta.

Finding the cheapest places to travel for New Year's

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There definitely appear to be more options available for New Year's travel than Christmas travel at the moment. But again, whether you can find a good price is really going to depend on your origin and destination cities.

Despite the spectacle of the ball dropping in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, flights in and out of New York to and from other east and Midwest hubs tended to be similar to what we mentioned for Christmas.

We also took note of some other options.

Nashville: Good prices from East Coast and Midwest cities

While New Year’s might not be the time you’d initially think of visiting Nashville, it’s looking to be a less expensive option than other U.S. cities for flights around New Year’s. If enjoying country music as 2022 winds down seems like something you’d enjoy, you can pay far less than you would for flights to many other destinations.

Depart on Dec. 31 and return on Jan. 3 for the best deals, including this $168 round-trip itinerary between JFK and Nashville on Delta.

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Flights out of Chicago on those dates went for $148 aboard United.

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We found good to decent deals out of D.C., Atlanta and Miami, too.

Denver: Moderate prices from West Coast

While you might not find $148 fares like the Chicago-to-Nashville itinerary, with domestic round-trip averages soaring far above $300 and $400 for the holidays, prices well below $300 to Denver could be a slightly more affordable option for New Year’s — with the potential to parlay this into a ski trip for the holiday and first couple days of 2023.

For instance, depart Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) early on Dec. 28, with a Jan. 3 return for $257 with United. The price comes in about $30 more out of San Francisco for the same travel dates.

(Video) "The Points Guy" Brian Kelly on how to get the best deals when planning a summer vacation

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Other holiday deals

There are also plenty of other options for 2022 holiday travel that might not follow a distinct trend but are worth exploring if they fit your schedule.

Keep in mind that these prices — along with all we’ve mentioned — are sure to fluctuate greatly in the coming days and weeks. If you see something you like, it’s a good idea to book it or find a way to at least put a hold on the fare.

New York to Turks and Caicos at New Year’s

While not the most impressive fares we’ve ever seen between New York and the beautiful Turks and Caicos Islands, $337 also isn’t the worst. It’s sure better than you’ll find to a lot of other tropical destinations around the holidays.

Depart Dec. 30 from LaGuardia, and continue on to Providenciales (PLS) after a two-plus hour stop in Charlotte. The layover is shorter on your return trip, on Jan. 4. Yes, you’ll need to request time off from work for the first few days of the new year for this itinerary.

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Los Angeles to Salt Lake City for New Year’s

If Denver doesn’t appeal to you as a skiing option, here’s an alternative to put you in good proximity to options like Park City.

Depart LAX early on New Year’s Eve aboard Delta Air Lines and arrive at the carrier’s Salt Lake City (SLC) hub at 8:32 a.m. mountain time. You’ll fly back to Los Angeles late on Jan. 3.

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D.C. to New Orleans at Christmas

If jazz music, gumbo and Christmas seem like a combination worth exploring, try this itinerary. You’ll depart Dulles late on Christmas Eve and arrive at New Orleans Louis Armstrong International Airport (MSY) just before 10:00 p.m.

Related: My stay at the Canopy by Hilton New Orleans Downtown

A return of Dec. 28 gets you the best price.

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New York to South Florida at Thanksgiving

At $233, this round-trip price falls nearly $130 below Hopper’s domestic Thanksgiving round-trip average.

Flying on JetBlue, you’ll leave early on Tuesday leading into the holiday from JFK, arriving in Fort Lauderdale mid-morning. The return flight on the Monday after Thanksgiving gets you back to New York almost in time for work.

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Bottom line

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If airfare in 2022 has taught us anything, it’s that prices will fluctuate and your best bet to secure a deal is to lock it in when you see it.

You may not find a $150 transcontinental flight at Christmas. However, thinking a bit outside the box on your destinations — particularly at Thanksgiving — and using tools like Google Flights to find which departure and return dates get you the best price could go a long way toward saving you money on holiday travel this year.

(Video) The Points Guy’s tips for flying through summer travel woes l ABCNL

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

FAQs

What is the cheapest country to travel to right now? ›

Mexico. Unsurprisingly, Mexico makes the list of the cheapest places to travel in 2022. The country has long ranked as an affordable and easy-to-reach destination for many Americans; reasonably priced direct flights are abundant.

How can I get a cheap holiday? ›

23 ways to cut the cost of your holiday
  1. Buy cheap flights with price comparison search engines. ...
  2. Keep within the luggage allowances. ...
  3. Avoid extra in-flight costs. ...
  4. Travel by coach or train instead of flying. ...
  5. Get affordable travel insurance. ...
  6. Find deals on private travel sales. ...
  7. Book low-cost types of accommodation. ...
  8. Stay in hostels.
21 Jan 2022

What is the cheapest holiday destination from UK? ›

See you poolside!
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24 Mar 2022

What is the cheapest safest country? ›

10 of the cheapest and safest places to live in the world
  • Albania.
  • Portugal.
  • Costa Rica.
  • Panama.
  • Mexico.
  • Thailand.
  • Malaysia.
  • Vietnam.

What is the cheapest country to visit 2022? ›

These are the cheapest countries to visit in 2022:
  • ETHIOPIA. Many people are unaware of the incredible countries in Africa. ...
  • MOROCCO. One of the best destinations to travel on a budget is Morocco. ...
  • ARGENTINA. ...
  • BOLIVIA. ...
  • CUBA. ...
  • PERU. ...
  • CAMBODIA. ...
  • PHILIPPINES.
27 Dec 2021

What day is the cheapest to book a holiday? ›

The Expedia research, however, tips flying on a Friday for domestic trips, where prices could be as much as 20% lower than a Tuesday. For international trips it says flying on a Friday could be 10% cheaper than flying on a Wednesday. For hotel rooms mid-week still seems to trump weekends.

What date is cheapest to travel? ›

So what are the cheapest days to fly? Typically, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday is the cheapest day to fly. If you can structure your travel schedule around these days, these will likely be the best days to fly – both for a lower cost and a less hectic airport experience.

Which city is most cheapest in UK? ›

Most Affordable Cities in the UK
  • Cardiff. The Welsh capital city is one of the cheapest cities in the UK for international students to reside in when completing their education. ...
  • Cambridge. ...
  • Glasgow. ...
  • Birmingham. ...
  • Newcastle Upon Tyne. ...
  • Manchester. ...
  • Nottingham.
30 May 2022

Is Greece cheaper than Italy? ›

Greece tends to be a little cheaper than Italy but there's not a huge difference in prices, especially outside of the large cities. Both Greece and Italy have some fantastic hotels and restaurants. Italy has more top end hotels and fine dining but nowhere beats Santorini and Mykonos for indulgent, pampered luxury.

Where is cheapest holiday destination in Europe? ›

Here are 21 cheap places to visit in Europe…
  • Albania. ...
  • Slovenia. ...
  • Slovakia. ...
  • Latvia. ...
  • Greece. ...
  • Spain. ...
  • Italy. Beautiful Italy doesn't have to be expensive. ...
  • Portugal. As one of the cheapest places in Europe that uses the euro, Europe's surf haven can most certainly be visited on a budget!
28 Sept 2022

Which city in Europe is cheapest to fly into? ›

Reykjavik, Iceland

For most people in the US, this is the cheapest European city to fly to. Depending on the time of year and where you're flying from, you can expect to pay anywhere between $260-$550 roundtrip on Icelandair.

What is the not safest country? ›

Profiles of the Most Dangerous Countries in the World
  • Afghanistan. With a 2022 score of 3.554 (actually slightly safer than 2021's 3.631), Afghanistan remains the most dangerous country in the world for the fifth year in a row. ...
  • Yemen. ...
  • Syria. ...
  • Russia. ...
  • South Sudan. ...
  • DR Congo. ...
  • Iraq. ...
  • 8-14.

What is the 3 safest country in the world? ›

  • Switzerland. #1 in Safe. #1 in Best Countries Overall. ...
  • Denmark. #2 in Safe. #10 in Best Countries Overall. ...
  • New Zealand. #3 in Safe. #11 in Best Countries Overall. ...
  • Norway. #4 in Safe. #13 in Best Countries Overall. ...
  • Sweden. #5 in Safe. #5 in Best Countries Overall. ...
  • Finland. #6 in Safe. ...
  • Canada. #7 in Safe. ...
  • Netherlands. #8 in Safe.

Where can I live like a king for cheap? ›

For those not yet looking to retire, they make good vacation getaways as well:
  • Cuenca, Ecuador. ...
  • Coronado, Panama. ...
  • San José, Costa Rica. ...
  • Koh Samui, Thailand. ...
  • Vienna, Austria. ...
  • Capetown, South Africa. ...
  • Merida, Mexico. ...
  • Montevideo, Uruguay.
30 Jul 2022

What's the cheapest month to go abroad? ›

May, June, and September are generally considered to be a lot cheaper than travelling in July and August.

Is Portugal cheap for tourists? ›

Portugal is considered one of the least expensive destinations in Western Europe, with an average cost of €68-115 per person per day, you will find it stacks up well as a holiday destination and is less expensive than many European options.

Do holiday prices go up the more you look? ›

Does your browsing history bump up the price? There's long been a theory that the more you look at flights, the higher the costs get, however there has recently been data to suggest this isn't true.

Is it cheaper to book early or last minute? ›

How much can I save booking last-minute? While it's almost always cheaper to book a room last-minute, how much cheaper is it, really? Turns out, though a bit cheaper, don't expect the bargain bin here. Rooms average 13% less when booked last-minute than booked four months in advance.

Is it cheaper to book your holiday last minute? ›

As our research above reveals, the best time to find the cheapest last-minute deals is around five weeks ahead of your trip. If you can, opt to travel early on or late in the break as prices tend to drop at these times.

Which airline is the cheapest to fly? ›

Top 10 Cheapest Airlines
RankAirlineCost per Mile
1.Spirit Airlines$0.209
2.Frontier Airlines$0.225
3.Hawaiian Airlines$0.257
4. (T)Allegiant Air$0.322
6 more rows
16 Jun 2021

What month is cheapest to book a holiday? ›

After analysing travel travels throughout 2018, their data revealed the months of January, February and September are likely the cheapest months to fly, because "airlines want to entice travellers to take trips even before the crazy holiday season!"

What is the cheapest day to fly from UK? ›

What is the cheapest day to book a flight? From the UK the cheapest day to book a flight is on a Sunday, while the cheapest day to actually fly is usually a Friday.

How do I shop for the holidays without wasting money? ›

How Do I Shop for the Holidays Without Wasting Money?
  1. Shop locally and in person when you can. ...
  2. If you must order stuff online (which, let's face it, you will), shop early. ...
  3. If you're looking for a deal or nervous about your stuff arriving on time, ask! ...
  4. Check where stuff is made. ...
  5. Cut back gifting in general.
18 Nov 2021

Why are holidays so expensive right now? ›

But it's not just increased demand that is pushing prices up. During the pandemic, airlines grounded part of their fleets and let go of staff, which they are now struggling to replace. As companies contend with reduced capacity, they're also facing increased fuel prices as a war-fuelled energy crisis unfolds.

How can I not spend money for 30 days? ›

8 Tips For Doing A No-Spend Month
  1. Time It Right. A financial fast is a terrible idea around the holiday season, of course. ...
  2. Establish Rules. ...
  3. Plan Your Meals. ...
  4. Go Public With Your Goals. ...
  5. Set Up Obstacles To Spending. ...
  6. Start Having Fun (Yes, Really) ...
  7. Focus On The Future. ...
  8. Be Kind To Yourself.

How can I save money for a holiday fast? ›

Tips to help you start saving
  1. Start small by putting spare change into a jar each week. ...
  2. If this works, set aside a bit more on a regular basis.
  3. If this is difficult, save what you can as regularly as you can. ...
  4. Try saving socially, for example, with a friend, and check in with them to see how it's going.

Are holidays cheaper on a Tuesday? ›

This insider advice only applies to all-in-one deals, where you'd book your hotel and flights through the same company. If you're only booking flights, the insider had some different advice. They said, “When it comes to flights, Tuesday or Wednesday is usually the cheapest day for scheduled flights.

Is it cheaper to book your holiday last-minute? ›

As our research above reveals, the best time to find the cheapest last-minute deals is around five weeks ahead of your trip. If you can, opt to travel early on or late in the break as prices tend to drop at these times.

Do holidays get cheaper the later you book? ›

Usually, it's best to book late for the best deals...

But booking late is normally the cheapest way to get a package. 'Late' usually means no more than 8-10 weeks before departure, when the bargains flood in. The reason's simple.

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