Don't have your Christmas plane ticket yet? Here's what an expert says

As the Christmas holiday quickly approaches, many Americans may still be scrambling to book last-minute flights. But, when is the right time to book your plane tickets?

Fight booking company Hopper says "as soon as possible." 

According to the company — known for flight and hotel deals — an estimated 53 million people are expected to depart from U.S airports over the holiday period, Sunday, Dec. 18 through Tuesday, Jan. 3.

"We’re expecting really high demand," Lindsay Schwimer, a consumer travel expert at Hopper, told FOX Television Stations. "People are excited to get back out there after missed holidays due to the pandemic."

Busiest flying days over Christmas holiday

According to AAA, an estimated 112.7 million people will travel 50 miles or more away from their homes during the holiday season. The agency said that's more than 3.6 million travelers than last year and close to pre-pandemic levels. 

"This year, travel time will be extended due to Christmas Day and New Year’s Day falling on Sundays," Paula Twidale, AAA’s Senior Vice President of Travel, said in a news release. "With hybrid work schedules, we are seeing more people take long weekends to travel because they can work remotely at their destination and be more flexible with the days they depart and return."


A scenic view of aircraft flying overhead photographed on November 29, 2010 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Schwimer says the busiest days for traveling from the U.S. will likely be Thursday, Dec. 22, Friday, Dec. 23, Monday, Dec. 26 and Mon. Jan. 2.

"If you’re booking any of those days, those are going to be the busiest, as well as the most expensive," she added.

To land the best-priced deal, Shwimer suggests flying to your destination on the earliest day possible and coming back in the middle of the week. 

Best flight deals over Christmas

Schwimer says that domestic prices for the Christmas holiday are currently averaging $350 round trip. However, she notes, those prices are likely to just continue to rise as the holiday approaches. 

"We’re expecting prices to increase about 10 dollars per day in the coming weeks, so if you haven’t booked those holiday trips, you’re going to want to do it as soon as possible, as those prices are only going to surge from here on out," Schwimer explained. 

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AAA says the demand for flights this year has surged despite higher ticket prices.

"If the distance is not reasonable to drive, more people are taking to the air to maximize the time spent at their destination," Paula Twidale, AAA’s senior vice president of travel, added. 

Clint Henderson, managing editor at The Points Guy, recommends using your reward points and miles if you have them to get their maximum value because cash prices are so high.

"I usually go home to the Bay Area for Christmas from New York," he said. "Flights that are normally $300, $400 are now $800, $1,200. So, you really got to shop around right now."

Tips to avoid travel delays during Christmas holiday

Booking direct flights or non-stop flights, which have no connecting flights to reach your final destination, will reduce your risk of interruptions, according to travel experts. 

To avoid delays at the airport, Schwimer advises getting to the airport early to make sure you have ample time to get through security. She also recommends taking the earliest and first flight out, so it’s less likely to be delayed by later flights. 

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Whether it’s airplane issues, weather events or pilot disruptions, there is still no way to guarantee disruption-free air travel. 

"Definitely pack your patience and get to the airport early this year, because it’s going to be busy out there," Schwimer concluded.

FOX Weather and LiveNOW from FOX contributed to this story.