On the Money

Prices are right for Thanksgiving and Christmas travel, expert says

Winter travel trends

Winter is coming, and whether you are traveling to see family or looking to escape the cold, the season is a hot time for travel.

This year, more than 27 million people will be traveling on U.S. air carriers during the Thanksgiving rush, according to Airlines for America, an industry trade organization. The busy travel period extends from November 18th through the 29th, with additional 55,000 passengers per day will be flying during this time, up 2.5 percent from the same time last year.

Airlines are gearing up by adding approximately 74,000 seats each day through larger planes and more flights. In order to avoid the madness and book the cheapest fare, a travel expert advises fliers to utilize certain resources.

Jacqui Gifford, a senior editor at Travel + Leisure, told CNBC's "On the Money" Cheapair.com has a calendar noting which days are the most expensive days to fly, and which are best in terms of price. For Thanksgiving, avoid departing on the Friday or Saturday before the holiday: Cheaper flights can be found on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

But there's a way to save even more.

"If you're looking for the most affordable fare possible, actually fly on Thanksgiving day or on Christmas day," said Gifford—but she warned not to wait for prices to drop.

Photo: Rubin Photography

According to airfare comparison website Hopper, prices are going up for Thanksgiving and Christmas travel. On the bright side, however, domestic flights this year are averaging less than they did in 2015. Domestic Thanksgiving flights for 2016 are on average $312 round-trip, compared to $340 last year. Christmas flights are averaging $338 round-trip, compared to $347.

If you're looking for a travel bargain this winter, Gifford suggested Napa Valley in California.

"January and February it's the quiet months there, they call it the Cabernet Season, and you can get a great deal on a hotel, " she told CNBC.

Gambling aficionados can score a win in Las Vegas, which are offering "the lowest rates in hotels all year," said Gifford.

For a place that embraces the cold in a fun way, Gifford recommended traveling to our northern neighbor Canada and checking out cities like Quebec and Montreal. "They have lots of festivals over the winter holidays."

Meanwhile, travelers don't have to feel the need to drop a mint on accommodations. More affordable design hotels are entering the space, Gifford said.

Brands like Mama Shelter, The Hoxton, and Generator are just some of the companies capitalizing on this trend. Generator's concept is "chic hostel" and Gifford said you can stay in a beautifully designed room for just 78 euros a night at their Rome location.

"You don't have to stay in a five-star property to have a really cool room and have a beautiful lobby," she added.

Multi-generational travel is another big trend Gifford sees right now. "After the recession, people really started valuing experiences over things, and so it's the grandparents taking the kids and the grandkids on these big vacations. So villa rentals are becoming very popular."