AUSTIN (KXAN) — If you’re waiting to book your flight home for the holidays until the last minute, you’ve made a big mistake. A common piece of advice for travel is to book right before you fly to save the most money.
Turns out this is very bad advice, according to Scott Keyes of Scott’s Cheap Flights. The website tracks the best travel deals and provides tips for people looking to save. Their advice for holiday travel: book in July.
Rich Segal spoke with Scott Keyes about this and why you should maybe vacation in January instead of December. Do you think your parents would do a late Christmas? Late Thanksgiving?
You can watch an edited version of the interview above, or read the full transcript below to learn more.
RICH SEGAL, KXAN NEWS: Tell me a little bit, Scott, about your company.
SCOTT KEYES, SCOTT’S CHEAP FLIGHTS: Scott’s Cheap Flights works to make sure folks, whether they live in Austin, Houston or wherever your home airport, that you never miss an exceptionally cheap flight, because you didn’t happen to be searching at the right time.
You know, cheap flights are funny, because they’re always popping up whether we’re searching for them or not. So our job is to make sure when that $198 round trip flight to Hawaii or that $400 round trip flight to Paris pops up that you get a little alert from us that it’s available in case you want to book.
SEGAL: Now, it’s the holiday season. We’ve had Thanksgiving. Christmas is on the way. When is the best time in your opinion to be flying during the holiday season?
KEYES: The three-week period around Christmas and New Year is actually the most expensive three-week period of the entire year. So if you have any flexibility in your plans, the best way to get a cheap flight is actually to avoid flying over the holidays.
In fact, right after this expensive three-week period are the two cheapest months of the entire year to travel January and February. So that’s the best way to get a cheap flight is actually just to push your travel plans back a few weeks.
Now if you have to travel over the holidays, you really want to spend Christmas or New Year’s with family, the best ways to get great deals are first and foremost to try to book well in advance really opposite season. So it’s too late for that this year. But for in 2023, when you’re at your Fourth of July barbecue, that’s when you should be thinking about booking Christmas flights.
Another great way to get at least better fares than you would see otherwise is to travel on the holiday itself. Flights on Christmas or New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day tend to be about 20% or 30% cheaper than flights a few days before or a few days after.
SEGAL: There are those who wait until the very last minute to book their travel, would this timeframe still apply to them?
KEYES: Look, waiting until the last minute to book your flights is a strategy. It’s just not a good one for getting cheap flights. Last-minute flights, they don’t tend to go down in price, they almost always tend to go up. And that’s especially true during a popular travel period like Christmas and New Year.
The thing to remember is that last-minute flights tend to be expensive. They’re not equally expensive. A flight booked one day before travels almost certainly going to be more expensive than a flight booked a week before travel and a flight booked a week before travel almost certainly more expensive than a flight booked a month before travel.
Even if you’ve been putting it off, you’re still probably going to benefit by booking sooner rather than later and not continuing to procrastinate. Because fares are likely to go in in one direction from here on out. And it’s not down.
SEGAL: Is it the week leading up to Christmas or perhaps Christmas into New Year’s, which is more expensive?
KEYES: They tend to be pretty similar. Dec. 20 through about Jan. 6 or so that entire period tends to be quite expensive. Now, usually a few days before the holidays or a few days after tend to be the peak in terms of airfare, because there are a lot of folks who are traveling, especially on those days, but during those in that entire three-week period fares, it’s pretty rare to find a cheap flight.
Now again, the cheapest days are going to be the holidays themselves. But to get the best fares, it’s really a matter of traveling either a little bit before the holiday rush or after when airfare gets exceptionally cheap starting about the second week of January.
One of the beautiful parts of traveling during January and February, even if you’re going to popular places like Hawaii or ski destinations like Colorado or Utah is you can actually find quite a bit more last-minute cheap flight availability. And so not only are they months, they’re the cheapest of the entire year. It’s also a lot easier to get cheap flights at a real late date.
SEGAL: So let’s talk outside the holidays real briefly here. Is there a better day that folks should look for a cheap flight not only during the holiday season, but perhaps any time of the year?
KEYES: Yeah, so typically speaking, the cheapest days of the week to fly are going to be Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. Those are days that business travelers tend to avoid, and so airlines know that if you’re purchasing a flight on those days, you’re probably a leisure traveler and they can’t afford to charge higher fare.
As to leisure travelers, because we’re more price sensitive. If the fares too high, we’re just not going to buy it. Unlike with business travelers, but the best times of the year to book if you’re just going for the cheapest flight, it’s actually coming up next month, January and February.
And let me give you a couple examples. If you wanted to travel from Austin to Amsterdam, flying over Christmas, right now, airfare is $1,619 round trip, that exact same trip Jan. 11, through 19, just $589 round trip, a third of the price.
Same with if let’s say you want to travel over to Miami, flights over New Year’s $684 round trip right now, that same trip just two weeks later, starting Jan. 10, $138 round trip on a full-service airline.
That’s indicative of the type of like 60%, 70%, 80%. Drop in airfare that you can see by pushing your trip back just a few weeks into mid-January.
SEGAL: How can people find you?
KEYES: So we have our website is ScottsCheapFlights.com. And we’re on all the social media. But the way we operate is we just have an email list. It’s free to sign up and test it out. And we would be honored to send you cheap flights out of your home airport.