The Flightmare Before Christmas

The Flightmare Before Christmas

How to Avoid The Christmas Insanity


As the holiday season quickly approaches, travelers need to take action now to avoid a Flightmare before Christmas event.  The airports and airlines have made significant policy changes and travelers beware.

According to a FlightGurus travelers, Mr. Joshua Jameson, Holiday Season travel has all the makings of what he calls “The FlightMare Before Christmas”.

Mr. Jameson is the average holiday traveler. He books airfare for him and his family of 5 in hopes of finding the latest deal on a flight to his hometown of Texas.

He looks forward to the break from the freezing cold temperatures of Michigan and excited at the lack of shoveling normally required just to leave his driveway.

Texas and its tropical winter weather is just the perfect setting for what Mr. Jameson considers perfect Holiday weather.

Airfare from Michigan historically has ranged anywhere from $290.00 upwards to $379.00 per person/round trip.   An expensive trip when paying for 5.

Mr. Jameson spends every year prepping and planning for these trips.  Fortunately, FlightGurus has done some of the legwork for him this year and would like to share what we have found.

Manic Travel

In 2020, many airlines priced airfare so low, it forced even the most COVID cautious to consider booking a flight to the dream destination once deemed unattainable.  Prices were so low it caused a momentary loss of logic for many.

Going forward and onto 2021 – When thinking of Thanksgiving and Christmas, the reality is that we are still talking about traveling with the threat of COVID still very present.

The risks are monumentally reduced by comparison, however there is no denying that we are all still “on alert” when it comes to our health and those of the ones we love.

Airports, airlines, hotels, car rental companies, vacation homes and cruise lines have adopted and created a vast array of methods in which to sanitize everything and everyone within in effort to provide travelers safe transportation for personal and business customers alike.

Travel industry professionals have spent enormous amounts of money hoping to perfect the process and to date it appears to be working.

The simple fact is there is no foolproof method available that would ensure 100% effectiveness in stopping the transmission of anything from the common cold to a deadly virus.

With this in mind, experts who specialize in infectious disease are urging the public to repeat what they did last year:

Avoid travel if you’re symptomatic, stay away from destinations with high coronavirus transmission rates, wear a mask and practice social distancing. 

If the holiday travel season is anything like the chaotic travel pattern experienced over the summer, you should expect a few surprises.

While you can’t predict being stuck in a dreamed “flightmare”, you can prepare for them and hopefully lessen the hardship that accompanies the holiday travel craze.

According to research done by a leading travel insurance company, they expect that travelers won’t forgo another year of Thanksgiving or Christmas without their loved ones.  Virtual Grandma & Grandpa simply won’t cut it. 

Expect airports and flights to be more packed than ever around Thanksgiving and Christmas. This means more flight delays, cancellations and long layovers.  Flexibility is a very important point to keep in mind this holiday travel season.

How busy will travel get this fall and winter?

According to FlightGurus research, the holiday travel season is defined as Nov. 12 to Jan. 7. Today, flight prices for the holiday travel season are up across the board compared to both 2019 and 2020.

For domestic flights, the average fare is $377, which is approximately 13% more than in 2019 and up 37% from 2020.

International flights are flat compared with 2019, averaging about $968 this year, but up around 18% 2020.

Fare analysts predict prices may decline between now and Nov. 12 if they follow the same patterns as in 2019.

But cautions that this holiday travel season is more unpredictable than in past years, so book as soon as you see a good deal.

If you haven’t made a reservation for a vacation rental, you may be too late. Domestic reservation volume in November and December is up 377%  from last year and incredibly – 91% from 2019.

The average rental rate this Thanksgiving is $415 per night, a whopping 19% higher than last year.

Preparation is more critical than ever. It’s paramount that travelers stay informed on the most current everchanging list of the health and safety regulations and be prepared to pivot rapidly in order to manage risks and uncertainties.

In addition to the very most important task –  Book Now – Book Yesterday – Book No Later Than Tomorrow, there are also other strategies available to help mitigate the dreaded holiday flightmare.  Let’s go over a few.

``Flightmare`` Strategies

  • While not usually something most purchase as the uncertainty historically has been pretty low. Today it’s something worth considering. A lot of experts are recommending that travelers research all of the options insurance carriers have to offer as not all have a cancel for any reason clause in the policy. In most cases you have to buy one at least 48 hours before departure which would give you the right to cancel for any reason. Other policies have a clause that will only reimburse you for up to 75% of prepaid non-refundable expenses, but most insurance carriers have significantly lowered that percentage post COVID. Travelex’s “named perils” insurance policy or Generali’s Standard policy, cover covid-19 as if it were any other illness.
  • Make a list two weeks before your vacation. Make sure it includes all the essentials required: • Masks • Antibacterial wipes • Disinfectant • Test kits • Proof of vaccination Making a list early, you’re less stressed and worried about your trip and in a better frame of mind.
  • Researching the entry requirements for the country visiting and review the information again the day before your trip to ensure nothing has changed and all your still compliant
  • This year more than ever, flexibility is key. Expect airports and flights to be more packed than ever around Thanksgiving and Christmas. This means more flight delays, cancellations and long layovers. Be prepared to make forced changes and accept that you can either roll with them and move forward or fight change and ultimately loose. When it comes to travel throughout the holiday season, decisions are made for the masses, not the individual.
  • It may seem like a daunting process, but it’s definitely worth the effort. Ensure your hotel or airline offers customer-friendly change policies.
The Flightmare Before Christmas


Thanksgiving Outlook


For Thanksgiving, travelers should expect domestic airfare of around $300/round-trip, which is up 23% from 2020 ($245) but down 11% from 2019 ($335).


Expect International airfare for Thanksgiving 2021 to be at historic lows of just $620/round-trip, down 11% from 2020 (~$700) and down 17% from 2019 (~$750). 

When to Buy
Book no later than Halloween for the best prices.

Afterwards, travelers should expect domestic flight prices to spike 40% (to around $400/round-trip) leading up to the week of Thanksgiving, and an additional 25% (to around $500/round-trip) for any last minute (week of Thanksgiving) fares.

Its forecasted that last minute international fares (week of Thanksgiving) will be around $820, or 32% more expensive than those who book before prices spike. 

When to Fly
The cheapest time to depart on domestic flights before Thanksgiving Day is Monday, November 22nd at $246/round-trip.
International flights will be cheapest on Wednesday, November 24th at $584/round-trip. Travelers returning on Sunday, November 28th, should expect to pay the most for both domestic and international flights.

Christmas Outlook

Domestic airfare for Christmas flights has already trended higher than 2019 levels at this time, priced more comparably to 2018 airfare thus far.

With domestic airfare for Christmas at around $390 round-trip, airfare is up 55% from 2020 ($250) and equivalent to 2019’s average domestic airfare ($390), suggesting airlines may be anticipating stronger

Christmas travel relative to Thanksgiving

International airfare for Christmas will average $926 round-trip, up 30% from $710 in 2020 and down 30% from $1,207 in 2019.

When to Buy
No Later than Thanksgiving.  The best deals for both domestic and international travel appear in mid-September, around 90-100 days in advance.

In general, booking domestic flights three weeks in advance (or by Thanksgiving at the latest), should help travelers avoid the biggest price spikes.

Expect domestic prices to spike 7% (to $460) two weeks prior to Christmas, and another 11% (to $510) in the final week.

For international travel, prices begin rising the most around 35 days in advance (around Thanksgiving), so travelers should aim to book Christmas flights no later than Thanksgiving at the latest to avoid the biggest price increases.

Expect international airfare to increase 23% (or +$230 from $990 to $1220) over the course of December.

When to Fly
Tuesday, December 21st is the cheapest day to depart on domestic flights before Christmas Eve at $338 round-trip, with Thursday, December 23rd being the cheapest day to depart on an international flight at $834 round-trip.

Similar to Thanksgiving, the following Sunday (Sunday, December 26th) is likely to be the most expensive date for both domestic and international return flights.

Thanksgiving Travelers

Most Booked
The most booked Domestic Destinations for Thanksgiving are

1.) Orlando, FL
2.) Dallas, TX
3.) Phoenix, AZ

The most booked International Destinations are

1.) Cancun, Mexico
2.) San Juan, Puerto Rico
3.) Mexico City, Mexico

Most Searched
The most searched Domestic Destinations for Thanksgiving are

1.) Los Angeles, CA
2.) Atlanta, GA
3.) Denver, CO.

The most searched Domestic Destinations for Thanksgiving are

1.) San Juan, Puerto Rico
2.) London, UK
3.) Cancun, Mexico

Christmas Travelers

Most Booked
The most booked Domestic Destinations for Christmas are

1.) Orlando, FL
2.) Los Angeles, CA
3.) New York City, NY

The most booked International Destinations for Christmas are

1.) Mexico City, Mexico
2.) London, UK
3.) Dublin, Ireland

With the exception of London, Dublin, and Accra (Ghana), international Christmas bookings skew heavily towards Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.

Most Searched

The most searched Domestic Destinations for Christmas are

1.) Denver, CO
2.) Los Angeles, CA
3.) Miami, FL

The most searched International Destinations for Christmas are

1.) San Juan, Puerto Rico
2.) Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
3.) Mexico City, Mexico


The forecasted national average nightly hotel rate on Thanksgiving weekend to be $187/night, up 3% from $181/night on Labor Day weekend.

With the national average nightly hotel rate for Christmas to be $193/night, up 7% from $181/night on Labor Day weekend.

Rental Cars

Prices are down 33% off their summer peak and continue to trend steadily down ahead of the holiday season.