Throughout the year, there are predictable peaks and valleys in travel demand and pricing. Travellers who study them can save money and have more comfortable trips.

As the holiday season approaches, these peaks and valleys multiply — especially in the US, which celebrates Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Years within a six-week time period. According to Expedia, most searching and booking for holiday trips occurs during October, so with that in mind, here’s a road map to help plan for the season:

Valley: 1 to 17 November
As Thanksgiving week in the US approaches, travel demand and pricing typically decline, making this a good time to schedule business or leisure trips. However this is also a very popular time for conventions, so be aware of major cities hosting large events where you’ll likely find crowding and higher prices.

Peak: 18 to 23 November
If you don’t have to travel in the US during this time, stay on the sidelines. During the Thanksgiving peak, airfares soar and US airports become clogged inexperienced travellers. However, it also means fewer Americans will be travelling abroad that week, making it a good time to snag a cheap transatlantic business class fare.

Valley: 24 to 25 November
Savvy travellers have learned to save time and money by flying in on Thanksgiving morning for the feast, and then flying out on Friday evening.

Peak: 26 to 29 November
As US travellers return from the Thanksgiving break, it’s time for big crowds. High prices. Big headaches. A perfect time for a teleconference or a staycation!

Valley: 30 November to 20 December
Early December is one of the very best times of year for business or leisure travel just about anywhere in the world. Prices plunge. Crowds go home. (Exception: New York City or London where holiday shoppers keep hotels full and rates sky high.) If you are travelling on business, clients are likely to be in good moods. On the leisure side, you’ll find some of the lightest crowds and lowest prices of the year on cruises or at Disney parks.

Peak: 21 December to 3 January
Christmas Day falls on Sunday this year, so peak travel days begin on the Tuesday or Wednesday prior. Try to avoid returning to the roads or skies until the Tuesday after New Years Day (also on Sunday).

Aside from the threat of inclement weather, January is also a fine time for business travel — it’s low season, so airfares and hotel rates are down, crowds are thin, and the airport belongs to the road warrior. You might even get a cherished upgrade.

Chris McGinnis is the business travel columnist for BBC Travel