A Guide to Thanksgiving and Holiday Season Travel: Affordable Flights and Costly Accommodations

Post-Pandemic Travel Boom Continues: What to Expect This Holiday Season

As the year comes to a close, the post-pandemic travel boom shows no signs of slowing down, with nearly half of Americans (48%) planning to travel between Thanksgiving and mid-January, according to a survey by Deloitte. This is a significant increase from last winter’s figure of 31%. AAA also reported a rise in Thanksgiving travel, with 55.4 million passengers traveling at least 50 miles from home, a 2.3% increase from the previous year.

If you’re planning to hit the roads or slopes this season, you can expect plenty of company. Here’s what you need to know before packing your bags for a winter vacation or visiting loved ones.

Affordable Airfare for Winter Travel

Despite the increasing preference for air travel, airline ticket prices are falling. Deloitte’s survey found that 33% of holiday travelers plan to fly domestically, up from 29% last year. Remarkably, airfares have remained more than 13% cheaper compared to the same period last year, according to federal inflation data. Domestic tickets are expected to be significantly cheaper this season, with round-trip flights within the U.S. averaging $268 during Thanksgiving (down 14% year-over-year) and $400 during Christmas (down 12%), as reported by booking site Hopper.

However, the picture is different for overseas travel, with Deloitte predicting soft demand. Hopper expects international airfares to drop over the Thanksgiving holiday compared to last year, but popular destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean will see prices 5% to 11% higher than pre-pandemic levels. For Christmas, global flights are expected to increase, with fares higher than 2019 and 2022 prices to destinations outside the Caribbean and Oceania.

Smooth Operations at Airports

Airlines and aviation officials are optimistic about handling the holiday season rush. Major U.S. carriers, including American, Delta, and United, expect record numbers of travelers this Thanksgiving and have taken measures to ensure smooth operations. Southwest’s chief operating officer, Andrew Watterson, stated that they are now better prepared for extreme weather events, referencing the carrier’s holiday meltdown last December. American Airlines assures customers that it has run the most reliable operation of any U.S. network carrier over the past 14 months, while United has implemented a new onboarding process to speed up the boarding process.

Improved track records for flight cancellations and lost luggage have also been observed. The Department of Transportation reported a decrease in flight cancellations and mishandled baggage rates compared to previous years. Airlines’ efforts to streamline and automate operations have contributed to preventing mishandling, although travel experts recommend using digital tracking devices like AirTags on luggage during busy travel periods.

Hotel Room Rates and Traveler Demographics

More vacation travelers are likely to book hotel rooms this year, with 56% planning to stay in hotels compared to 35% last year, according to Deloitte. This increased demand may lead to higher room rates, which were already 0.8% higher in October compared to the previous year. However, price-conscious travelers may want to book early to secure lower fares or take their chances with last-minute bookings.

In terms of traveler demographics, Deloitte predicts an increase in baby boomers’ travel participation from 21% last year to 29% this year. Older Americans who were more cautious about travel last year due to potential disruptions and health concerns are now making up for lost trips. Gen X travelers will make up the largest share of holiday travelers, while millennials and Gen Z travelers are expected to have a slightly lower participation rate compared to last year.

Tap into Loyalty Points for Cost Savings

With rising credit card debt, more vacation travelers are planning to use credit cards for their expenses. According to a NerdWallet/Harris Poll survey, 75% of vacation travelers plan to use credit cards, with 8% still paying off expenses from last year. To mitigate the increased costs of travel, many travelers are turning to points and customer loyalty programs. The share of points-based travel bookings through credit card programs has increased significantly compared to last year, offering an opportunity for cost savings.


As the holiday season approaches, the post-pandemic travel boom continues to thrive. With affordable airfare, smoothly operating airports, and the availability of loyalty points, travelers have options to make their trips more cost-effective. However, it’s important to plan ahead and be aware of potential price increases in hotel room rates. Regardless of age group, more people are eager to travel this year, making up for lost trips and creating a bustling holiday travel season.

“The entire industry has been rattled since last year’s debacle, and airlines have adjusted their operations accordingly.”

Scott Keyes, Founder of Going

“Inflation, health, and travel disruption concerns may have subsided, and boomers are making up for lost trips.”

Steve Rogers, Managing Director of Deloitte’s Consumer Industry Center

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