String up the garland. Light the menorah. Fire up “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The holidays are upon us again.

The six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s represent one of my favorite times of year for all of the festive wonder they bring. What’s more, I really enjoy pumpkin pie. Of course I also like this time of year because it’s one of the most popular times to travel—something all of us here at Expedia do well.

Every holiday season we study travel data to get a sense of what travelers like you and I can expect when we hit the road to celebrate with family.

This year, after looking at a bunch of holiday data (“holidata,” as we like to call it), we have determined that many popular flight routes this season will run fuller, meaning tighter confines inside already-packed December planes. Many of these same routes will be less expensive to fly, as average ticket fares to the many holiday destinations appear to be down about 7 percent from 2014.

Put differently, we’re predicting cheaper but fuller flights this holiday season—good news, so long as you don’t mind making some new friends.

Christmas air travel

Hold on to your hats, people: A comprehensive analysis of data tells us that the holiday travel season is shaping up to be a busier year this year than it was last year. By a long shot.

Average demand to the 10 most popular U.S. destinations is up approximately 23 percent over last year, with demand to New York and Chicago up 34 percent and 28 percent, respectively. Demand among U.S. travelers for travel during holiday season 2015 to international destinations such as London, Mexico City, San Juan (Puerto Rico), Toronto, and Bangkok also is up over 2014 numbers.

Viewfinder Tip: Buy air and hotel simultaneously in a package and save up to 20 percent.

When it comes to price, tickets to certain destinations have gotten cheaper to certain popular destinations, too. The biggest average ticket price (ATP) discounts between 2015 and 2014 are for Miami, Florida (10 percent) and Las Vegas (9 percent), with cities such as Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Cancun coming in third (at 7 percent). The ATPs on top routes such as San Francisco to Las Vegas (33 percent) and Chicago to New York (26 percent) dropped between 2015 and 2014.

Christmas hotel demand

When I travel for the holidays, I usually stay with family. Many travelers, however, opt for hotels, and our data analysts say some of the hottest hotel destinations for Christmas 2015 include Las Vegas, Orlando, New York, Los Angeles, and Anaheim, California (to name a few).

In particular, California’s diverse offerings are trending upward:

  • In Anaheim, demand at Disneyland-area hotels is up more than 60 percent in 2015 from 2014, despite a nearly 5 percent increase in average daily rates in the same time frame.
  • In the Lake Tahoe area, bookings are up 128 percent in 2015 from 2014, largely in anticipation of a strong snow season.
  • In San Diego and San Francisco, demand is up more than 60 percent in 2015 from 2014.

Our numbers indicate that hotel demand also is up in select international destinations over last year. Some of the destinations on this list: London (up more than 45 percent), Rome (up more than 30 percent), and Puerto Vallarta (up more than 50 percent).

New Year’s is all that

Good deals remain for holiday travel this year; as of this writing, top values for Christmas or New Year’s flights include trips to Honolulu, London, Puerto Vallarta, Punta Cana, or Miami, Florida. Good deals also include New Orleans, Lake Tahoe, and Washington, D.C.

For New Year’s Eve specifically, New Orleans is clocking in as a good bet for a hotel deal—average daily rates for 2015 are down 13 percent from 2014.

San Francisco also is showing strong; daily rates have dropped 5 percent in the same timeframe.


Tips for easier travel

With all of this data at your fingertips, it’s important to remember some practical suggestions for making holiday travel easier.

First, make sure you’re flexible with travel dates. The most crowded travel day for the Christmas holiday is the day before Christmas Eve. If you have flexibility, considering traveling on the Sunday before Christmas instead. Likewise, since the busiest day for New Year’s Eve is the day after Christmas, so consider flying on New Year’s Eve.

Second, booking air and hotel and even rental car simultaneously, in a package, can save you serious coin. Our data indicates that customers who book airfare and hotel as a package at the same time (versus separately) on can save up to US$568, or roughly 20 percent. Add in a rental car and the savings on that part of the booking jumps up to 54 percent (at least for pickups between December 16-19).

Next, mind your manners when you fly. Expedia recently released its annual list of airplane etiquette offenders, and the most egregious of the passenger behaviors is kicking the seat in front of you. Consider yourself warned.

Finally, follow @Expedia on Instagram and enter our #ExpediaSendMeHome contest for a free flight home for the holidays.

As for me, I’ll be bopping around the Pacific Northwest this holiday season, relaxing with my family and cooking up a storm. As we transition from Christmas to New Year’s, we’ll do some travel to visit people here and there. I can’t think of spending the holidays any other way.