What to expect if you’re traveling this holiday season

October 26, 2023

By Anne Purcell

What to expect if you’re traveling this holiday season

With the holiday season almost here, visiting family or holiday vacations is top of the mind for some folks. Overall, due to the increasing prices of products and services, travelers are expected to pay more for their holidays compared to previous years.>

However, even if some costs have gone up, others have surprisingly gone down, such as flights and rental cars.

Here are some holiday travel predictions and costs when it comes to flights, food and hotels to help prepare you for the 2023 holiday travel season:

Booking flights

Booking as early as you know your plans is the best course of action to guarantee the most flight choices. Thankfully, according to NerdWallet, even as many other costs continue to rise, overall flight costs have decreased 13% compared to 2022 and even 6.5% in 2019—before the pandemic.

A good rule of thumb for the holidays, specifically if you’re planning on traveling for Thanksgiving or Christmas, is to book your Thanksgiving flights before Halloween and your Christmas and New Year's Eve flights before Thanksgiving at the latest.

As the holi

Best days to travel

Flexibility is key to scoring not only the best deals but also for a better chance of avoiding crazy crowds. For Thanksgiving, the worst days to travel are Nov 22nd and Nov 26th. Prices will be higher, and the airports will be far busier with the holiday rush. For Christmas, traveling on either Dec 22nd or Dec 26th is also predicted to be the worst travel days for cost and crowds. Therefore, if you are traveling specifically for the holiday, traveling a few days before and after each holiday is ideal.

When it comes to driving during the holidays, traveling during the afternoon of the holiday itself is the best time. But, if that’s not possible, avoid the day before and the day after to miss crazy traffic. Gas prices are expected to remain high over the holiday season, but if you need to rent a car, rental prices are expected to be down compared to last year.  

Booking hotels

While flights and rental cars are down this year, the cost of hotels and restaurants has risen. Hotels have increased by around 8% over the last year, while eating out has increased by about 6%.

When looking at hotels, while booking early is ideal, you don’t have to book as early as flights. It is best to book your hotel rooms for Thanksgiving by the first week of November and Christmas and New Year's Eve by the first week of December. When doing your research, compare prices across websites and even different platforms. Sometimes, prices will be different on a website compared to that of a mobile app, so the hotel company or travel company can encourage users to download the app to access app-only promotions.

If you want to gamble, sometimes you can get the best hotel deals by waiting last minute, but there are no guarantees.

Other increased holiday expenses

It is no secret that food prices have increased, both when eating in and eating out. It is important to keep that in mind when shopping for your holiday feasts. The USDA predicted that food costs will be up 6.3% this year, which is less than last year but still historically high. On the other hand, turkey prices have gone down almost 22%, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, which is good news for everyone planning on having a turkey dinner this season!

Other than looking for local deals at your grocery store, there isn’t much you can do about the increasing cost of food. However, knowing that ahead of time can help you stay aware that the cost will be higher and fit that into your overall holiday budget.

Prepare yourself for happy holidays

Holidays can be many things: happy, stressful, exciting, etc. and building a holiday budget for yourself can be overwhelming, especially if you are on a tight budget. Knowing the predictions of costs ahead of time and where you will expect to pay more than years past can help ease the stress of planning a fun holiday.

For example, if you are traveling and expecting to spend more money at restaurants, look at a hotel outside the busy touristy areas. While you may not be close to all the fun, you can cut some costs. Or, pick and choose the things you want to do, like opting for a nice dinner one night and someplace more budget-friendly the next. With these considerations in mind, you can give yourself and your family financially happy holidays.

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