The 'Magic Number' to Save on Holiday Travel

Christmas is just 56 days away.

And right now is your best chance to save big on holiday travel…

Every year around the Christmas and New Year holidays, we see a surge in airport traffic. During the holiday season, millions of Americans make the trip home to see their families. According to travel group AAA, last year about 107 million Americans traveled between December 23 and January 1. It was the largest number of holiday travelers on record. Of those, about 6.4 million flew to their destinations.

And it turns out, this week is one of the best times to purchase your tickets.

That's because sites like Airfarewatchdog track flight prices. On average, 54 days before your trip is the best day to book your flights. Other sites peg it at about 60 or even 70 days… which means if you haven't booked yet, this is the week to do it.

One of my favorite ways to save on plane tickets is through FareScout. You can use this app to help determine the best time to book a flight, based on whether fares could increase or decrease from the date you want to book.

Typically, the lowest fares are in the one- to three-and-a-half-month range, which is why 54 seems to be the magic number. The most expensive time to book, on average, is two days before a trip.

But now, finding out the best time to book is easier, and maybe even more accurate. FareScout looks at the previous 13 months of fare data to determine whether a ticket price will fall or rise within the next seven days. But you can only use this for domestic flights departing within 60 days (although the company plans to expand this in the future).

FareScout is simple to use. It's a free app you download onto your iPhone. Just enter in your flight information, and FareScout will tell you whether you should buy now or wait. The app will even let you know how much fares could increase or decrease. So if you want to save some money without trying to figure out the best day to buy tickets on your own, try FareScout.

I also like to use Google Flights for planning out my trips. You can view its "Flight Insights" to see which dates provide the cheapest round-trip price. We just found changing round-trip dates to Rome from Washington, D.C. by just three days dropped the price by more than $800.

But if you choose to ignore our "56 days 'til Christmas" warning, don't worry. If you have some time and want a last-minute deal, do what I do and check the website Kayak. I love using it for quick, last-minute changes in my travel schedule. You can still find discounts to help you get where you need to be.

And don't forget my additional three tips to make your travel even easier…

First, download the airline's app to your phone. And if you book through a third-party site, download its app, too. One of our editors uses the Expedia app to track delays, gate changes, and more for her connecting flights.

Second, if you have a tight connection (45 minutes or less), let a flight attendant know. They keep a list of passengers with connections and will try to make sure you get off the plane with enough time.

Finally, look up the airport layout (on your airline app) so you know if you have to take a tram to another terminal or make other arrangements to allow for enough time to get to your flight. On board the plane, the in-flight magazines contain information about many airports, so you can also flip through them to see what you can learn.

Planning ahead for holiday travel will take a lot of stress away. And don't shy away from taking the vacation – time away from work and other life stressors is a great way to boost our mental health.

What We're Reading…

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
October 30, 2018