Whether you’re going home, to a loved one, or on an exotic vacation for the holidays, you will undoubtedly encounter premium rates, sold out flights, and long lines at the airport. While that last one is somewhat unavoidable, but hopefully worth it for your time spent away. We’ve got some tips for how to avoid overpaying for your travel during the most wonderful time of the year. Flights during the last few weeks of December can cost up to 75% more, but if you book at the right time, you can save yourself hundreds.
Tip #1: The best time to book your flight is the first week of October, the second best time is now
Historic data from the disruptive flight service, Hopper, suggests that the ideal time to book your Christmas flight is roughly 83 days prior to departure, which puts us in the first week of October. Considering that we’re currently in the first week of November, I would suggest that you buy your flight now if you haven’t already. According to Hopper, “Around Thanksgiving time, holiday airfare will begin rising by $4 per day you wait. In the final two weeks leading up to Christmas, flight prices will spike by $7 per day.”
Tip #2: Be flexible with your travel dates
Christmas is on a Monday this year, which means that Friday, December 22nd is going to be the most expensive day to fly. If you can grab a couple of extra days away from the office and depart that Tuesday or Wednesday, you can save north of $100 on your ticket. Same rules apply to New Year's Eve. Return either a few days before or a few days after the event itself.
Also, if you can drag yourself out of bed or keep yourself up late, flying early in the morning or late at night can have a significant effect on ticket prices. Remember, airlines charge for convenience, so if you are willing to suffer a little bit of aggravation, your wallet will thank you.
Tip #3: Consider investing in travel insurance
Normally, I am not one to shell out the extra dollars to insure my trip, but considering the higher-than-normal price tag on holiday tickets, and the fact that wintery weather can disrupt flights all over the country, it is probably worth having a financial backup plan in case everything goes awry. You can also get travel insurance through your travel credit cards.
Tip #4: Be armed with knowledge in the face of canceled flights
This tip is related to the point above in that it has to do with weather. Last Christmas, I got stuck in Boston as I was trying to make it home to Tampa. A snowstorm was due to hit, and the airline I had booked started pre-canceling flights. Before calling their hotline to rebook, I did a quick Google of other nearby airports that serviced this airline. I discovered that Providence, just an hour south, wasn’t under the same travel restrictions that Boston was. I had my ticket changed, hopped a $15 train to Rhode Island and was back in Tampa days ahead of everyone else. Know your options, and don’t be afraid to think creatively.
Tip #5: Considering traveling on the holiday itself
Christmas morning is a time-honored tradition, but you may want to consider foregoing the presents under the tree for a cheaper airline ticket. You can save hundreds, and still make it to your destination in time to feast in the evening. Of course, this wouldn't be a popular option if you have kids.
Tip #6: Do what works best for you, and only you
When it comes to saving money around the holiday season, there are a lot of options, but a lot of catches to those options. While long layovers and early wake-up calls may not bother some, they may be tedious and fury-inducing to others. If traveling in a group, consider splitting up and meeting in your final destination. Not only will it be much easier to find single seats at a reasonable price, this allows one person to shell out that extra $100 to fly at 10am instead of 6am, and the others to think of their wallets first.
So don’t let the holiday travel stress get you down! Happy holidays and safe travels to you all.