[Rick Seaney is the CEO and cofounder of FareCompare, and columnist for Investopedia. The views expressed by columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Investopedia.]

Think about Thanksgiving now? Really? I’m sure that’s most people's reaction, but I’m here to tell you that if Turkey Day travel is even a vague shadow on your radar, the time to shop is now. Unless you don’t care what you pay, know that holiday ticket prices are about to take off.

Key Takeaways

  • Thanksgiving is usually the most expensive time to fly all year, domestically. Fares during the holiday week average about 40% to 110% higher than the week before.
  • Buy now to avoid two significant price hikes; one in late September and a second in late October. 
  • The most expensive departure day for Thanksgiving is the Wednesday before the holiday, closely followed by the Tuesday before.
  • The most expensive return dates are the Sunday after Thanksgiving, followed by the Monday after.
  • The cheapest days to fly are the holiday itself (Nov. 28) and the Saturday after.

Five things to know:

1. Thanksgiving Is Not About Cheap Tickets; It’s About Less Expensive Tickets.

The Thanksgiving holiday travel period (Thanksgiving 2019 is Nov. 28) is the most expensive time to fly all year in the U.S. Prices run, on average, from 40% to 110% higher than for flights the week before.

Tip: The lower percentage applies mostly to connecting flights while the 110% hikes mostly affect non-stops. In other words, foregoing the convenience of a non-stop flight could mean significant savings.

2. Two Thanksgiving Travel Price Hikes Are Coming 

Remember, also shop on an airfare comparison site to be certain of getting the best price.

  • Third week in September: This first hike will hike fare prices, on average, by $2. That may not sound like much, but it’s $2 per day, every day you delay, so it does add up.
  • Fourth week in October: Hike number two hikes fares another $4, on average. This too is $4 per day, every day, and you will feel this.

3. Most expensive days to fly at Thanksgiving

 The airlines know exactly when we want to fly. Not surprisingly, the most popular days to fly are the most costly. 

  • Most expensive departure dates: The Wednesday before the holiday (Nov. 27), followed by the Tuesday before (Nov. 26).
  • Most expensive return dates: The Sunday after the holiday (Dec. 1), followed by the Monday after (Dec. 2).

4. Cheapest days to fly at Thanksgiving  

 You may not like this itinerary, but if you only fly one of these days, you’ll still save something.

  • Cheapest itinerary: Depart on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 28), return on Saturday (Nov. 30). If you get there early on the big day, you won’t miss a minute of the fun; or show up later, so you don’t have to help with the cooking!

5. Other ways to save money or hassle

  • Add some inconvenience: As mentioned above, connecting flights can be cheaper, sometimes a lot cheaper. Don’t automatically dismiss them; price them out. And check out fares from the closest big airport to your home and destination. It may not be the easiest one to get to but, again, this inconvenience could save big bucks.
  • Use a carry-on: This tip is more about the hassle of getting out of the airport quickly. A carry-on allows you to skip the baggage carousel and be first in line for the next available Lyft, Uber, or taxi. 

It’s a little early to go around saying, "Happy Thanksgiving," but it is not too early to buy Turkey Day tickets. Safe travels.