Skip To Content
Blog Get a Quote

Best and worst times of year to fly

Expert advice on how to plan your next vacation

Proud mother caring her son on airplane. The unrecognizable baby is looking through window

Flying is one of the most expensive ways to travel — but in many cases, it’s the only way to get where you need to go.

That’s why we asked Colleen Kelly, professional globe-trotter and host of the popular PBS series Family Travel With Colleen Kelly, to help us understand the best and worst times of year to fly.

“Prices will always be higher around holidays,” Kelly told us, “and airlines will raise prices when they know people want to travel. If you can go off-season or during a non-holiday month, you have a better chance of saving money.”

Here are some of the best ways to save money on plane travel — as well as what you can do if you’ve already booked your flight.

In this article:

Save money by traveling in mid-January

What’s one of the best times of year to fly? Mid-January, right after everyone else returns from their holiday travel.

“One of my favorite times to fly is in January,” explains Kelly.  “The first week of January can be good, but the second and third weeks of January tend to be great times to travel.”

There are other good reasons to book your holiday travel for mid-January. If your employer needs a certain number of staff members to remain onsite during Christmas and New Year’s, for example, you can sign up to work the days your coworkers might prefer to take off.

If your parents are retired and willing to accommodate your family’s schedule, you can still enjoy a multigenerational holiday celebration, complete with cookies, gift-giving and long-standing traditions — or you may decide to celebrate the holidays quietly at home, and use your January travel to gather the extended family at a warm-weather, all-inclusive resort.

This, by the way, is one more benefit of mid-January travel. “The hotels are not as full,” Kelly explains, “and so the rates are better for families.” There are so many money-saving reasons to travel in the first month of the year that your family may want to permanently change their holiday plans.


Plan your vacations during shoulder season

Another good time to travel is during shoulder season — the months between peak season and off season travel times, such as June or September. “Shoulder season is always a good time to fly,” says Kelly. “For instance, I am flying with my teens to Paris in November, when the hotels and airfare are a lot less expensive.”

Traveling during shoulder season gives you the money-saving benefits that come with avoiding peak travel times, while keeping your family from having to experience the worst of any unpleasant weather associated with off-season travel. You may have to deal with temperatures that are a little less comfortable than you were hoping for — but for some families, that’s part of the fun.

“It won’t be warm when we get there,” Kelly says, “but it will still be Paris.”

If you must fly during the holidays, book as early as possible

Flying during the busy holiday season can be both stressful and expensive, so it’s worth asking yourself whether you really need to board a plane. “Consider driving over the holidays,” Kelly suggests — or, as we suggested earlier, booking your holiday travel for mid-January, when prices drop and cheap flights are plentiful.

If flying is your only option, start planning your trip as early as possible. “Airlines raise prices when they know people want to travel,” Kelly explains — which means that by getting your ticket booked before everyone else, you might have a better chance of getting the lowest possible fare.

You may also want to set alerts to help you track potential prices. “Set a Google Alert with Google Flights when you start your search,” Kelly advises. “A Google alert will track your flights on the dates you want to fly, and send you emails telling you when a price has gone down or up. You can set it and forget it, as they say.”

Even if you’ve already booked your holiday flights, a Google Alert can still help you save money. “If I’ve booked a flight and paid for it, I still set a Google Alert for that specific flight,” says Kelly. “You can simultaneously set an alert in Skyscanner, as well.”

Why would you want to set alerts on flights you’ve already booked? “Sometimes the cost of your flight will go down,” Kelly explains.

“If it does, contact the airline as soon as possible. They will very likely honor that price and refund the difference. I’ve done this with American, my airline of choice, several times — and sometimes I received a $70 refund per ticket. For a family of four, that’s $280 back in my pocket to use towards something else like a car rental on my vacation!”

Haven Life: Life insurance that’s actually simple

Great News...

Peace of mind might be closer than you think.

Learn more
Default author headshot

About Nicole Dieker

Nicole Dieker has been a full-time freelance writer since 2012, with a focus on personal finance and habit formation. In addition to Haven Life, her work regularly appears at Lifehacker, Bankrate,, and Vox. Dieker spent five years as a writer and editor for The Billfold, a personal finance blog where people had honest conversations about money, and is the author of Frugal and the Beast: And Other Financial Fairy Tales.

Read more by Nicole Dieker

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

Our disclosures

Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.

MassMutual is rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of Aril 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.

Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider, which is included as part of the Haven Term policy and offers access to additional services and benefits at no cost or at a discount. The rider is not available in every state and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual are responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made accessible under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party vendors (partners). For more information about Haven Life Plus, please visit:

You might also like

Get our most-read stories, twice a month

.newsletter-msg-success, .newsletter-msg-error { display: none; }

What our customers are saying

Sign up for our newsletter

Get our most-read stories, twice a month

Thanks for signing up. See you in your inbox soon.