If your grim financial situation means you have to choose between flying for either Thanksgiving or the December holidays, you may get a better deal flying for Turkey Day.

The national average price for a round-trip domestic flight for Thanksgiving is $420, about the same as a year ago, according to airline ticket data analyzed by the travel booking website Priceline.com. But the national average airfare for the span that includes Christmas and New Year’s Eve is up 3 percent, to $444.

If you had booked Thanksgiving reservations in early October, you would have paid an average airfare of $393, while the average December holiday airfare, if booked at that time, was $430, according to Priceline.

But if you waited to book your Thanksgiving flight, you are not alone.

As of Oct. 26, 78 percent of Americans who say they plan to travel for Thanksgiving had yet to make reservations, according to the travel website Hotwire.

Travel experts say such procrastinators may regret waiting so long.

On the busiest travel days around Thanksgiving, the average flight will be 90 percent full, according to Airlines for America, the trade group for the nation’s largest airlines.

Empty airline seats are increasingly hard to find as airlines have merged, cut less-profitable routes and consolidated flights on popular routes.

“The good news is that Thanksgiving airfares are back to running about flat with last year so, if you can only travel for one end-of-year holiday, that’s probably the one to pick,” said Brian Ek, a Priceline travel expert.

(c)2012 Los Angeles Times. Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com. Distributed by MCT Information Services

Photo Credit: An United Airlines flight takes off from Chicago. Rachel Titiriga / Flickr.com