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Travel Tip: When Thanksgiving Airfares Are the Cheapest

Yes, it's really that time of year again to book your holiday travel plans.

Lucidio Studio | Photographer's Choice | Getty Images

"If you want to lock in the most convenient dates and times for your trip, now is the time to shop," Rick Seaney, CEO and airfare analyst of FareCompare.com, tells CNBC in an email.

With Thanksgiving a little more than 10 weeks away, it's important to get a jump on fares before the best flights get snatched up. And in my experience, booking flights in September for Christmas travel has paid off in previous years.

Flights during Thanksgiving week will be slightly higher than last year, said Seaney, who blames this on a handful of domestic airfare hikes earlier this year, as well as airlines assuming demand will be high. (Read more: Southwest Raises Airfares, Other Airlines Match)

Seaney provides a general rule-of-thumb for what to expect for ticket prices this holiday season:

  • Short-haul routes (up to 500 miles): $120+ round-trip
  • Medium-haul routes (from 500 to 1,500 miles): $300+ round-trip
  • Long-haul routes (1,500 miles or more): $425+ round-trip

Ticket prices normally rise the closer it gets to the holiday. But travelers will see the least increase on short-haul routes, Seaney says.

Thanksgiving travel sweet spots

During the Thanksgiving travel period, there are a couple of sweet spots:

  • Depart Monday before Thanksgiving (November 19)
  • Depart Thanksgiving Day (November 22)
  • Return any day but Sunday or Monday after the holiday (November 25-26)

Seaney does caution, however, that travelers shouldn't expect to find cheap flights. "Thanksgiving week fares are garnering a 50 percent to 70 percent premium compared to fares on the same days on the following week, and this is typical of holiday pricing," he says.

I'm staying home this Thanksgiving, but have already begun planning my Christmas travel this week. Have you?

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