You didn’t think you’d be traveling this Christmas but your plans have changed.
- Q: Can I still find a flight?
- A: Yes.
- Q: Can I still find any semblance of a deal?
- A: Yes. Follow these five strategic tips to avoid paying a penny more than you have to.
Listen as air travel expert Rick Seaney offers up more holiday travel tips:
Find Last-Minute Christmas Flight Deals
1. Look for last-minute sales now
Southwest is currently offering a holiday airfare sale and so is AirTran - others may follow with last-minute discounting on routes that aren’t completely full. However, it’s important to note that the sale fares do have restrictions and will not be what we normally consider cheap fares. Instead, they’ll be what I call the best of the bad deals and that’s probably the most you can hope for during the holidays.
2. See what your frequent flyer miles are worth
If round-trip flights to your destination are more than $450, consider using your loyalty miles or points. If you come up short, some airline-branded credit cards allow cash and points to make up the difference. Sometimes you can even swap or barter miles with a friend as airlines typically redeem tickets for anyone. Don’t forget to check your airline’s website for last-minute buy miles deals – many are running these specials through the end of the years so you can beef up your account for less.
3. Fly the holiday itself
This is true for Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July, as well as Christmas Day (Dec. 25) and New Year’s Day (Jan. 1). Holidays flights are usually a lot cheaper than flights on any of the days surrounding holiday. My family and I took a late Thanksgiving evening flight and saved almost 40%.
4. Drive to a bigger airport
This small inconvenience can really save money. This week I checked prices for Christmas flights from Madison, Wisconsin, to New York and they were priced at $773 round-trip. The same-day flights from Milwaukee – which is not quite 80 miles away – cost just $239 round-trip.
5. Endure more inconvenience
Overnight flights or flights at dawn are not much fun, but that’s why the savings can be so great. There are many more ways for an airline to price a flight with up to two stops so your chance of finding a decent deal is greater.
Save on bag fees and potential aggravation by using a carry-on bag. Yes, the chances an airline will lose your checked bag are pretty small, but, if you run into delays and have to hurry across the airport to jump on a plane with an empty seat, your carry-on will also make that flight. That probably won’t be true for a checked bag.