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Geek Data – Cheapest Cities for Travel on Official U.S. Holidays

December 27, 2007 | Posted in: Airfare News,Travel Tips

As 2007 winds down, I thought it might be fun to do a little experimentation with our new “Best Time to Buy” database that will be rolling out early in 2008 and take a look at the price of travel on official U.S. Holidays.

Certainly extra long weekends invite many to checkout airline ticket prices and as always I am intrigued to find which departure and destination cities are the best overall for travelers, so putting on the “Geek” cap on this morning I put together a ranking I would like to share…

For this experiment I mapped out the top 45 U.S. domestic cities (by passengers enplaning in those cities) to/from each other and took the average lowest price for travel over several upcoming official U.S. holidays (Presidents Day, Easter, Memorial Day and July 4th).

Our new “Best Time to Buy” database prices every week of the year, between every city, after every domestic airfare distribution (3 a day) and saves it historically.

For a given travel week this allows us to go back and pick the historical “perfect day” for purchasing between those cities on that travel day.

The number #1 question I always get:

When is the Best Time To Buy for Travel to “My Destination” on “This Date”?

This new database allows us to answer this question with more than just insider knowledge of the crazy world of airline pricing. Of course you’ll always want to sign up for our airfare email alerts in case the airlines break tradition (which they are want to do from time to time) and decide to put out an airfare sale that they haven’t done historically.

Airlines are creatures of habit, but they do react in weird and sometimes wonderful ways that no one can predict (for example the price of fuel and the current winter off-peak airfare sales).

A couple of things about the ranking chart shown below that caught my eye:

  • I was surprised that the overall winner was Tampa Bay – not a hub city – but has Southwest Airlines – those traveling to or living in Tampa are big winners
  • Pittsburgh in the top 3 was quite surprising as US Airways announced earlier this year a drastic reduction in flights which I would have guessed would have negatively impacted prices (but hasn’t)
  • Continental and Delta hub cities were some of the most expensive — with Cincinnati “winning” the “most expensive” lower 48-state city followed closely by Northwest Airlines hub city Memphis

The following table shows the average cheapest prices fro travel between (from/to) that city and the 45 other cities on the Holiday weekend noted (Presidents Day, Easter, Memorial, July 4th). Each date is ranked from 1 to 45 by price and the overall rank is the sum of each holiday rank. The list is ordered by best overall rank.

City Overall Rank Rank President Rank Easter Rank Memorial Rank July 4th
Tampa Bay 5 2 $235 1 $255 1 $266 1 $266
Orlando 7 1 $231 2 $258 2 $266 2 $267
Pittsburgh 13 3 $235 3 $265 4 $271 3 $273
Ft. Lauderdale 20 4 $237 8 $270 3 $271 5 $274
Washington DC 24 8 $247 4 $266 6 $274 6 $274
Chicago 26 11 $252 6 $269 5 $273 4 $273
Las Vegas 26 5 $245 7 $270 7 $278 7 $278
Kansas City 27 6 $246 5 $267 8 $278 8 $279
Dallas/Ft. Worth 39 12 $253 9 $278 9 $283 9 $283
New York City 41 9 $251 12 $284 10 $285 10 $286
Phoenix 43 10 $252 10 $279 12 $289 11 $289
Baltimore 50 13 $258 11 $283 13 $291 13 $291
Denver 51 7 $246 13 $285 15 $296 16 $298
Charlotte 53 14 $260 16 $288 11 $288 12 $289
Nashville 61 17 $264 14 $288 16 $296 14 $296
Raleigh/Durham 64 18 $268 17 $290 14 $295 15 $297
Indianapolis 65 16 $262 15 $288 17 $296 17 $300
Milwaukee 72 15 $262 19 $295 19 $301 19 $304
Philadelphia 75 21 $276 18 $294 18 $299 18 $300
Seattle 80 20 $275 20 $297 20 $306 20 $309
Los Angeles 88 19 $270 24 $306 22 $313 23 $316
New Orleans 91 24 $281 25 $308 21 $313 21 $315
Miami 93 22 $279 26 $312 23 $314 22 $316
St. Louis 96 23 $280 23 $305 26 $317 24 $317
San Diego 98 25 $287 22 $304 25 $317 26 $320
Houston 101 31 $297 21 $301 24 $316 25 $317
Boston 109 26 $289 29 $319 27 $319 27 $321
Minneapolis 115 27 $290 27 $318 30 $329 31 $335
San Francisco 118 30 $296 31 $321 28 $324 29 $332
Detroit 118 29 $292 28 $318 31 $329 30 $334
Newark 122 33 $300 32 $325 29 $325 28 $328
Cleveland 128 34 $300 30 $321 32 $332 32 $336
Oklahoma City 134 35 $301 33 $326 33 $337 33 $338
Portland OR 136 32 $299 34 $327 35 $339 35 $342
Atlanta 137 28 $291 37 $339 36 $339 36 $342
San Antonio 139 36 $304 35 $327 34 $339 34 $339
Hartford 149 39 $315 36 $338 37 $343 37 $344
Albuquerque 152 38 $313 38 $341 38 $351 38 $352
Salt Lake City 158 37 $310 41 $359 40 $363 40 $365
Oakland 159 42 $336 39 $349 39 $357 39 $360
Memphis 165 41 $331 42 $366 41 $365 41 $371
Cincinnati 169 40 $325 43 $412 43 $412 43 $414
Anchorage 193 49 $546 48 $607 48 $606 48 $610
Honolulu 195 48 $523 49 $661 49 $640 49 $718

3 Responses to “Geek Data – Cheapest Cities for Travel on Official U.S. Holidays”

  1. Linda Bacon says:

    Just a comment: “Tampa Bay” is not a city – Tampa is. When you fly to Tampa, you land at Tampa International Airport (a great, traveler-friendly airport, BTW). If your ranking is averaging Tampa International and flights to the nearby St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport together, then saying Tampa Bay makes sense (sort of). Otherwise, call the city by its correct name – Tampa. Thanks for the helpful info your list provides.

  2. Rick Seaney says:

    Linda,

    I marked out Bay in the article — I am not a Florida resident – my subliminal association with Tampa was obviously related to the football team. Thanks for clearing things up for me.

  3. Warren Pedersen says:

    Rick, great study but I struggled with the “overall rank” column until I re-read the description. It would be better titled “Overall Score” – Lowest being best.

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