HOUSTON - This holiday season, airfares are expected to soar to their highest levels in five years.
Experts say pent-up desire to travel and see loved ones, and airline pilot and staff shortages mean more demand, fewer flights, and sky-high ticket prices.
"Airlines have had to cut back flights, destinations, seats they’re selling," explained Clint Henderson, Managing Editor for The Points Guy.
Airfare tracker Hopper says Thanksgiving fares are up 22% over 2019, with domestic round trips averaging $350, and international averaging $795. Christmastime flights are up nearly 30%, averaging $263 roundtrip domestic, $1300 international.
Don't be surprised to see upticks for hotels and rental cars, too. Although rental cars are more available than they were during the pandemic.
To keep costs down, experts say be flexible on the dates you fly, such as traveling on Mondays before and after Thanksgiving and Christmas. It could save you up to $270, and utilize Google Flights.
"You can put in the dates and the destination you want to travel to, and you can set alerts. Google will send you an email if the price drops or jumps drastically," said Henderson.
Expedia and Capital One Travel offer similar price alerts, and for a fee, will guarantee the lowest prices. Other sites, such as The Points Guy and Scott's Cheap Flights, will notify you of airfare deals, which can help you save if you're flexible on your destination.
"But if you see a deal, jump on it because these days deals go fast," said Henderson.
Your best bet is to book soon, before mid-October.
"October 10th, it’s the middle of October. Typically, after this date, we’re only going to see prices increase. It will be really hard to get great low prices for holiday travel," said Hayley Berg, Lead Economist for Hopper.
And use up those points and miles you've been collecting.
"Always use those points. They’re only going to get less valuable over time," urged Henderson.