[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.]
If you can swing a pre- or post-Thanksgiving getaway this year, do it. The deals are that good, thanks to the last "deal zones" of the year.
- Deal zones are especially cheap periods to fly.
- One of the best deal zones of the year for domestic travel is the first couple of weeks in early November, just before Thanksgiving (Nov. 28).
- Another good domestic deal zone encompasses the first two to three weeks following Thanksgiving, in early December.
- If you want to fly to Europe, the Thanksgiving holiday travel period in late November is a very cheap time to fly.
- Deal zones are good times to fly, but deal zone tickets must be purchased in advance, generally two or three weeks before domestic trips, and usually three weeks or more ahead of Europe travel. The good news is, we're seeing more and more deals available closer to departure dates.
Deal Zone #1: Early November
If you want to travel almost anywhere in the U.S. before Thanksgiving, chances are very good you’ll save a lot of money, especially compared to Turkey Day travel. Check out these Dallas–Denver fares (nonstop, roundtrip) for the same days of the week (Wednesday/Sunday), but different parts of the month. Note: All fares were found in mid-October 2019 using a seasonal deal-finding tool.
- Fly early November: $97
- Fly at Thanksgiving: $287
Here’s another example for New York–Los Angeles nonstop flights, same days, but one itinerary is in the Deal Zone, the other is not.
- Fly early November: $272 one-stop; $317
- Fly at Thanksgiving: $528 one-stop; $689
Deal Zone #2: Early December
This next deal zone is for pre-Christmas or New Year’s travel. Basically, look for cheap fares in early December, usually through Dec. 15 or close to that. People generally travel to resort areas during summer and holiday periods, so there are lots of deals to Florida during the quiet, early December Deal Zone. Examples of round-trip fares for various itineraries within Dec. 1-15:
- Chicago–Jacksonville, $79; Tampa, $90; Ft. Lauderdale, $105
- New York–Orlando, $93; West Palm Beach, $97; Miami, $104
- Los Angeles–Orlando, $199; Tampa, $235; Miami, $267
Deal Zone #3: Thanksgiving
Surprise! While Thanksgiving is hellishly expensive for U.S. travel, it’s a different story for flights to Europe. It’s downright cheap to visit many cities in Europe during the traditional Thanksgiving travel period. Here are some examples; again, all prices are round-trip (we repeat this because some of the fares are hard to believe).
- Los Angeles–Paris, $254
- Boston–Rome, $242
- New York–Venice, $320
All of these flights are on major airlines, which we are not going to name for the simple reason that no airline always has the best deal; in other words, go to an airfare comparison site, and you’ll know you’re getting the best price. Now, while Paris and Rome can be very cheap at Thanksgiving, London can be cheap from a wide range of departure cities. All these flights are also round-trip.
- Boston– London, $320
- New York–London: $325
- Los Angeles–London: $396
- Chicago–London: $574
- Houston–London: $615
Spain is another great value during peak-Thanksgiving travel days:
- Boston–Barcelona, $371
- Miami–Madrid, $390
- Seattle–Barcelona, $450
- Dallas–Madrid, $595
Finding Deal Zone Deals
Don’t be tied to particular dates: The cheapest fares go to the traveler who can be as elastic as possible. Remember, the cheapest itinerary often means departing on one weekday and returning on another; if you need to fly weekend-to-weekend, you will probably pay more. Note that deal zone tickets must be purchased in advance—usually two or three weeks before domestic trips, and three weeks or more ahead of Europe travel—but this year we are seeing more and more deals available closer to travel dates (though true last-minute deals are still rare, if not impossible, to find).
Don’t be tied to particular airlines: As noted above, no single carrier is always the cheapest. Looking at prices on an airfare comparison site is the only way to find the cheapest deal. Maybe you think you don’t care about cost; no problem, but check anyway in case you change your mind. Note: If you are going to use points or miles toward your ticket and must use this perk with a particular airline, by all means, do so.
Looking for an excuse to fly in one of these Deal Zones? Call it an early holiday gift—to yourself.