The United States Department of Transportation says that the holiday season is one of the busiest long-distance travel periods of the year. Family visits and extra vacation days makes the six day period surrounding Thanksgiving boast 54% more long distance trips and the Christmas/New Year’s holiday travel period peaks at 23% more longer distance trips—bringing higher rates on airfare, longer lines at airport counters, and more stress.
At Anthea Granite, we want to help you beat the holiday travel blues and avoid breaking the bank—here’s our 10 Tips to Cheaper Holiday Travel:
Check Alternate Airports
The majority of major airport hubs have smaller airports within a 60 to 90 minute drive. These smaller airports may very well provide lower fares. If you’re flying into San Francisco, check San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and even Sacramento.
Consider Flying On the Holiday
If you are a ‘fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants’ type and are flexible when late-booking your flight, you can just fly on the holiday itself. Flight costs generally drop precipitously on holidays and are much less than booking travel on the days leading up to the actual holiday. Try flying out Thanksgiving Day instead of the Wednesday before and your cost could be dramatically different.
See A Good Fare? Snag It, Before It’s Gone.
Make sure you sign up for fare alerts and monitor fares for late booking deals. If you get notice for a super cheap fare close to the holiday, don’t wait! Snag it. Every airline has algorithms built into their pricing that will raise the fare after people shop flight combinations—even if they don’t book—so these fares can change in a second.
Consider Varying Travel Dates
Seating is tight during the holiday travel season. Giving yourself one or two days leeway (either earlier or later) than desired peak travel times may yield lower fares and improve travel savings.
For example, try November 19th or 20th for Thanksgiving and return November 30th or December 1st. Following this same pattern around Christmas and New Years can yield big savings! Try checking the 17th or 18th of December and the 4th or 5th of January.
Time Your Purchase Right
The day and time that you purchase your ticket may impact your overall holiday travel cost—shocker, right?
Most airlines launch their sales on Monday afternoons, so it’s a good idea to book air travel on Tuesday afternoon, after competing airlines respond by lowering their prices.
Look for Deals
The travel industry is extremely competitive—you can find deals on everything from rental cars, to hotels and flights. Sometimes if you book all three together, you’ll get a package deal/rate.
Ship Extra Luggage and Gifts
It all depends on how many days you are traveling and how many people are in your family, but shipping extra luggage and gifts is a great way to cut costs this season. Most airlines are charging extra fees for checked baggage, and in some cases, even for carry-on bags. Most airlines will also have an overweight bag fee as well. If it is feasible for your family to ship any extra belongings ahead of your trip, then you could totally enhance your holiday travel savings.
Don’t Book Large Parties All At Once
Most major airlines have about ten different pricing levels or seats. What this means or large parties is that if you try to book all at once the entire party will likely be charged at the highest tier. By booking in small groups, you may be able to get at least some of the seats at a lower rate, ending with hundreds of dollars in savings.
Hotel Prices and Holidays
Often, it’s assumed that hotel room rates rise during Thanksgiving and Christmas, which isn’t the case. New Years, however, is a different story.
On New Years in popular party destinations, some hotel bookings are already 85% full. Scarcity raises rates, so if you are looking to get away for New Years, it’s a good time to make those plans.
Getting First Class Upgrades for Free
This may surprise you, but very few people pay out of pocket for a pricey ticket in first-class. In the last few hours before a flight takes off, airlines begin rewarding the unsold first class seats to the passengers who fly the most and then it trickles down. There are other factors like weather delays and how much you paid for your ticket that may bump a lower level flyer to the top of the list.
It’s usually luck of the draw, but you can get first class for free 50-60% of the time on Delta when you become a Silver Medallion Member.