This blog post was updated on November 16, 2020.

Perhaps more than any other flight of the year, booking that Thanksgiving trip can conjure up dread and eventual pocketbook disappointment. However, you don’t have to fear booking your Thanksgiving flight as much as you might Aunt Judy’s awkward commentary at Thanksgiving dinner. From knowing when to book to what days you should fly, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about purchasing your flight for Thanksgiving.

When to Book

Close-up of a businessman's hand using calendar on laptop over desk

If you haven’t booked your Thanksgiving flight yet, chances are, the price is only going to increase from here on in. Thanksgiving fares are going to rise the closer it gets to the actual holiday. You’ll also have fewer flight options and seat choices the longer you wait. August and September bookings tend to be the most affordable. November offers the biggest sticker shock in terms of airfare. Thanksgiving airfare begins to creep up starting in October, so you’ll want to explore flight deals in advance to save a nice chunk of change.

Which Days to Fly

Thanksgiving air travel comes with its own set of consistencies, especially in terms of what dates you’ll fly. Generally, the most popular flight schedule is to leave on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and return on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. If you book this set schedule, you’ll face large crowds at the airport, and most likely, a more expensive ticket. If you’re flexible with your dates at all, you can avoid the crowds and the price hikes by leaving on the Monday or Tuesday before Thanksgiving. In terms of a less stressful and more cost-effective return date, try to schedule your flight home for the Monday or Tuesday after Thanksgiving. And if you’re truly flexible in terms of travel days, you’ll find the cheapest day to fly out is Thanksgiving Day. If you can snag a morning flight and aren’t traveling particularly far, this can be a nice option.

Related: 10 Tips for Stress-Free Travel During Thanksgiving

Connecting vs Nonstop Flights

Airport signs and symbols,connecting flights

The weather starts to be more inconsistent just in time for the holidays. Unpredictable weather patterns can mean flight delays right smack in the middle of the Thanksgiving travel week. While you might think your flight down to Texas shouldn’t produce any weather disruptions, if you’re connecting, you might face problems. Since Thanksgiving flights can be expensive to begin with, consider just going with the nonstop option if you can. Nonstop flights will present far fewer delays and potential problems than if you have to connect in multiple airports across different climates.

Time of Day

While all too often travelers just focus on booking flights on the cheapest days for Thanksgiving travel, many forget to look at the flight times. Even if you don’t want to rise and shine for that 6 a.m. to Boise, taking the first flight of the day can save you delay headaches later. As the travel day goes on, it becomes more likely that flight schedules will get behind and delays will occur. If you’re taking connecting flights, you’ll definitely want to be on the first flight of the day, or in the very least, an early morning flight.

Check Your Airport Options

Passenger plane is landing during a wonderful sunrise.

You might need to get to San Francisco for Thanksgiving, but that doesn’t mean your only option is flying into SFO. Before you commit to a flight schedule and price, check to see if neighboring airports might offer better times and cheaper rates. If you’re heading to a major city, there are often several neighboring airport options to search for your Thanksgiving flight. When booking your flight, search for all airports nearby to give you the best options for the holiday.

How do you go about booking your Thanksgiving flight? Share your tips with us in the comments below!

About The Author

Suzy Guese is a travel writer from Denver, Colorado. She caught the travel bug after taking her very first flight at just three months old—she was headed for Disney World—and has been a total travel junkie ever since. From family car trips across North America to stints abroad in Europe, Suzy travels the globe with her redheaded temperament in search of sarcasm, stories, and travel tips to share with anyone willing to listen. She blogs about her travels at http://suzyguese.com.