Finding the best time to buy cheap flights anytime can feel like a bit of a gamble, but finding cheap flights in the midst of COVID can feel totally overwhelming. How do you even know where to start? Well, for better or worse, finding cheap flights isn’t an exact science, but we’ve analyzed the new trends from our recent booking data so you can better understand how to find cheap holiday flights during COVID.
Your holiday plans this winter probably look a bit different—maybe you’re going home from school at Thanksgiving and then studying remotely for finals week. Maybe you’re not going home for Thanksgiving and only leaving at the end of the semester. Maybe you’d love to get out of the house, but your school has only been doing online classes for the semester. Whatever you need flights for this winter, we’re here to help you make sure you get a great flight deal.
Tip #1: Choose your dates carefully.
If you’re looking to score cheap holiday flights, it’s usually cheapest to fly on a Monday or Tuesday. Since many people look to leave at the end of a week or travel over the weekend, leaving at the start of the week is usually cheaper. If you have to fly over a weekend (Friday-Sunday), try to take a red-eye flight if you can, as they’re usually cheaper as well.
Tip #2: When traveling during the holidays, it’s always a good idea to try to avoid the busiest travel days.
Avoiding busy travel days saves you money—and saves your sanity too! The busiest holiday travel days for Thanksgiving are typically the day before Thanksgiving and the weekend after—avoid traveling on these days if you can! Traveling the Monday before Thanksgiving or even on Thanksgiving itself is a good way to save a lot of money (and avoid crowds). For Christmas, the busiest travel days are usually December 21-23. Fridays and Sundays are typically busy flight days as well, in general. If you can avoid those dates, you can usually save some money!
Tip #3: Book when you see a good deal.
During the coronavirus, flight prices have varied a LOT, and have changed frequently! If you see a good deal that you want to take advantage of, book it when you see it. It’s typically cheapest to buy domestic flights about 3-6 weeks in advance, and international flights 2-4 months in advance. However, during Covid, we’ve seen prices stay super low up until a few days before the departure date, or hit rock-bottom prices even though the travel dates are still months away! To find a good deal, look early and often—then be ready to book when you see a cheap fare.
Tip #4: That being said, don’t be afraid to wait until the last minute.
Airline schedules are still changing a lot with response to demand and Covid regulations, so if you’re looking for cheap holiday flights, waiting until a bit closer to your travel dates can help you avoid some of that reorganization. In addition, we’ve seen some fares stay low a lot longer than they usually would, so last-minute deals are definitely happening! If you’re flying to a more popular destination or a bigger airport (i.e. say, if you’re flying into Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, or similar), you’re more likely to be able to find good deals right up until the last minute.
Tip #5: Book with an airline that’s offering flexible policies.
Airline schedules have been up in the air (pun intended) and as a result, there’s been lots of airline schedule changes and other adjustments. With winter weather and the increased travel demand during the holiday season, schedule changes and cancellations are already pretty common on winter holiday flights. However, this year, you can expect that it’ll be a bit more common—so it’s a good idea to book with someone offering flexible airline policies right now.
If you book through StudentUniverse, we can honor any special policies they’re currently applying. We’re also waiving all StudentUniverse change fees on any flight booked in 2020.
For example, many airlines have implemented no change fee policies, meaning that you can change your flight to another date (or in some cases, destination) without paying a fee. This can provide a lot of flexibility for you with changing schedules and plans during this holiday season!
Tip #6: Start looking now.
Even if you’re not ready to purchase yet, historically, October is usually the cheapest month to book domestic holiday flights. Of course, since we don’t have a crystal ball, we can’t say for sure those same trends will continue to hold true this year, but it’s worth noting. Even if you want to wait a bit longer to solidify your travel plans, you should start looking at flights now so you can keep an eye out for good deals that will pop up over the next few weeks.
Tip #7: If you’re a Chinese international student, here’s what to know.
You may be thinking about making the most of a longer-than-usual winter break to head home and we know that cheap flights to China have been difficult to find! We recommend you check directly with the airlines (via their official press releases, social media or by giving them a call) to see what flights are approved. When you find an approved flight that works for you, book it! These routes are still in high demand, so the prices won’t drop dramatically, even if you wait. It’s better to book as soon as you find something that works for you.
To get started, try looking at the available routes United Airlines and Korean Air are offering. You can search for their available flights on our website and even use a promo code to save even more on your trip home!