The secret best week for cheap international flights is coming

by Сашка

It’s not too late to find a last-minute deal for Thanksgiving

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If there’s one week you can reliably get cheap flights, it’s Thanksgiving.

Surprised? You’re not alone. Few people think of Thanksgiving as a cheap time to travel. For domestic flights, they’re right. With so many people traveling simultaneously to be back with family, it’s one of the most expensive weeks all year for intra-U.S. airfare.

But all those people traveling domestically are, by definition, not traveling internationally. And while late November is high season in the United States, overseas it’s very much low season. Thanksgiving is not a holiday in France. Nor is it a holiday in Spain, Italy or other European favorites. I’ve checked.

This cheap flights expert thinks you should be booking trips earlier

So with airfares inflated domestically and slumped overseas, it’s no overstatement to say that Thanksgiving is the hidden best week of the entire year for international travel.

For many routes, transatlantic flights cost the same as or less than domestic flights. Take a recent search of Thanksgiving-week round-trip flights from New York City: Peoria, Ill., for $516 or Paris for $438. Or from Seattle: Raleigh, N.C., for $621 vs. Rome for $536. A similar story out of Miami: Boise, Idaho, for $454 or Barcelona for $473.

Nothing against Peoria or Raleigh or Boise, but ask yourself which trip would be more memorable: one more expensive Thanksgiving trip home like all the previous years or a week exploring Europe? If the family will miss you, let them in on the secret and invite them along. After all, cheap international Thanksgiving flights aren’t just abundant in large Northeast cities; they can also be found out of medium and small cities around the country.

Another factor that makes Thanksgiving week plum for overseas travel: aligned schedules. Kids are out of school that week (or at most have about two days of class). Same for adults at work: Few, if any, vacation days are needed. Whether you’re traveling with family or vacationing with friends, most people have free time Thanksgiving week.

Finally, late November is a fun time to fly abroad. In the Caribbean, hurricane season has largely tailed off. In many parts of Europe, Christmas markets have already started popping up. In South America, summer’s just beginning. And unlike over Christmas or in the summer, in November you’ll have a fraction of the tourist crowds.

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How do you actually get those $49 flights? There’s always a catch to airline sales.

Spending Thanksgiving in Europe has become something of a new tradition for my friend Andrew and his family. Last year, he scored nonstop flights to Dublin for $374 round-trip apiece. This year, he did even better: Dublin for $360 round-trip. “We had such a great time, we decided to do it again, and it’s now our new family tradition,” he told me.

While “last-minute” and “cheap” rarely belong in the same sentence as “flights,” your odds are best on routes where demand is low. Airlines turn a tidy profit off travelers who wait to book their Thanksgiving flights until the final two weeks. But for international Thanksgiving flights, they can’t count on a massive tranche of procrastinators. For those who haven’t yet made plans, you may have better luck finding a last-minute deal flying across an ocean.

For many, this year is too late to take advantage, but in 12 months, it’ll be back again. While most U.S. holidays are either a one-off (say, Independence Day) or are celebrated overseas as well (say, Christmas or New Year’s), Thanksgiving is a rare opportunity for traveling abroad that’s been hiding in plain sight for years.

Scott Keyes is the founder of Going, a cheap-flight alert service with more than 2 million members. When he’s not on a plane, Keyes lives with his family in Portland, Ore.

More travel tips

Vacation planning: Start with a strategy to maximize days off by taking PTO around holidays. Experts recommend taking multiple short trips for peak happiness. Want to take an ambitious trip? Here are 12 destinations to try this year — without crowds.

Cheap flights: Follow our best advice for scoring low airfare, including setting flight price alerts and subscribing to deal newsletters. If you’re set on an expensive getaway, here’s a plan to save up without straining your credit limit.

Airport chaos: We’ve got advice for every scenario, from canceled flights to lost luggage. Stuck at the rental car counter? These tips can speed up the process. And following these 52 rules of flying should make the experience better for everyone.

Expert advice: Our By The Way Concierge solves readers’ dilemmas, including whether it’s okay to ditch a partner at security, or what happens if you get caught flying with weed. Submit your question here. Or you could look to the gurus: Lonely Planet and Rick Steves.

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