By Rick Seaney | Contributor
The holidays are coming and you want a deal. Unfortunately, cheap flights are mostly non-existent at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. The airlines know we want to fly during these celebratory periods and raise their prices to whatever we will pay (which can be a lot, especially at Thanksgiving). Don’t look for special sales or last-minute discounts, but you can still save something. Check out these strategies to find the best ticket prices possible, along with other ways to cut costs.
No 1 | Thanksgiving
Fly less popular days: The Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving are the most popular departure days, while the Sunday after is the number one return day; avoid them! Instead, check out prices for departures the weekend before the holiday or the Monday before, and consider returning Friday, Saturday or Monday. Bottom line: Being flexible can save money.
Fly on the holiday: Some won’t consider this, but if you can fly on Turkey Day itself (Thursday, Nov. 22), you will not only get the best price but you’ll also avoid airport crowds and craziness. Fly early in the day and you won’t miss a minute of the feast or the football.
Fly to and from a bigger airport: If your airport is small, but there’s a larger one nearby, check out prices from both; bigger usually means cheaper (and do the same for your destination). If you’re lucky enough to have multiple airports near you, check out prices from each. Sometimes DFW will have better deals, other times Love Field may be cheaper.
No 2 | December holidays
Hanukkah: This year the holiday occurs Dec. 2-10, which is perfect for deals because fares drop after the high-traffic, high-priced period of Thanksgiving. This is not only a perfect time to visit family; early December is also great for getaways.
Christmas: Prices rise in mid-December for this holiday (Tuesday, Dec. 25), but it usually isn’t quite as expensive as Thanksgiving because the travel period is spread out over more days. Don’t delay making your ticket purchase, though, and do look at different itineraries. Again, you will likely find airfare flights on Christmas Day cheaper than other dates.
New Year’s: You may not want to fly on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day (Monday, Dec. 31 and Tuesday, Jan. 1), but that’s when you’ll find better deals. In September, I checked flights from Dallas to New Orleans and found departures on Dec. 31 were about $40 to $50 cheaper than flights leaving a day or two earlier. But always compare fares to confirm this will work for your particular itinerary.
No 3 | Post-holiday mega-deals
Suggestion: Don’t use all your vacation time for holiday travel because a major airfare price drop begins about a week into the New Year and continues until mid-February. That’s the time to find very cheap fares across the U.S. and Europe.
Editor’s Note: Rick Seaney is a travel expert, who loves helping others find great deals on traveling domestically and abroad. Find more of Rick’s tips at: FareCompare.com.