3 things to remember for last-minute Thanksgiving flights

April 15, 2024 | Keep calm: USA Today's Ben Mutzabaugh has last-minute Thanksgiving travel tips (WTOP)

WASHINGTON — Maybe you were too busy last month and it slipped your mind. Or, maybe you were planning an outing with friends but it fell through.

Whatever the reason, now you’ve got Thanksgiving travel plans but no flights booked — what do you do?

First, a healthy dose of reality: “You’ve probably missed the boat for a good deal,” USA Today travel reporter Ben Mutzabaugh told WTOP.

But, don’t despair just yet.

1. You’ll have more success depending on your destination and your flexibility

There may be flights that “aren’t outrageous,” Mutzabaugh said, based on where you’re going and your flexibility.

If you’re heading to a big city such as L.A., Chicago or Houston, you’re likely to find better deals than if you’re going to St. Cloud, Minnesota, or Springfield, Missouri, he said. Flights tend to fill up quickly for smaller cities because of limited options.

“Be prepared for the worst and hope for the best,” he said.

2. Don’t knock down travel on Thanksgiving Day

Flying on Thanksgiving Day is “one of the best suggestions,” he added.

Flights in the morning tend to be good, and if you’re flying out in the evening, it’ll be especially cheap. Another advantage is that flights on Thanksgiving Day tend to not be delayed because of fewer flights are scheduled, Mutzabaugh explained.

But if something goes wrong and you somehow miss your flight, it’s going to be tough to make it in time for dinner, he warned.

3. Avoid peak travel days as best as you can

Peak days during the Thanksgiving holiday are Wednesday through Sunday, so “anything you can do to kind of get away from those peak days, the better chance you have of finding a deal,” Mutzabaugh said.

Expect airports to be busy throughout the weekend, even Saturday, and don’t even think about trying to rush through airport security.

“This is not the time of year to try to figure out how close you can cut it through security, especially with some of the new regulations and security procedures we’ve seen put in place,” he said.

So if you can avoid those core travel days, you’ll be able to snag better fares and catch smaller crowds at the airport.

Teta Alim

Teta Alim is a Digital Editor at WTOP. Teta's interest in journalism started in music and moved to digital media.

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