If you’ll be traveling this Thanksgiving, these tips are for you. And they are easy though some include a certain inconvenience-factor. The good news is you will save money.
Want more? Airfare expert Rick Seaney is at your command. Listen:
1. Shop now
Time is running out. This is especially true if you plan to fly the most expensive days – which include the Wednesday before and the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Prices are not expected to go down – only up. Get your tickets now.
2. Be flexible
Fly the less popular days. For Thanksgiving, this means not flying on the Wednesday and Sunday mentioned above (and here’s a list of the cheapest days to fly).
The very cheapest day of all: Thanksgiving Day itself (Nov. 28). You might be surprised at how easy Thanksgiving Day flights are. Bonus: Empty airports!
3. Fly short-haul routes
Snag an invitation nearby. If you can limit your flight from your hometown hub to another big city that’s about an hour or hour-and-a-half away by plane, terrific. The fares on such routes – with lots of flights and lots of airline competition – usually do not go crazy at holiday time. Examples include flights between New York-Boston, San Francisco-Los Angeles, Dallas-Houston and more.
4. Add inconvenience
Add a stop or two to your itinerary. Yes, it will drag out your travels. And yes, it will almost always save you some money (often, a lot of money). More inconvenience: Overnight flights can save even more money but don’t forget to scope out post-flight transportation options (the chances of someone in your family willing to go to the airport at 5 a.m. to pick you up are not good).
5. Drive further
Head to the biggest airport near you. It may not be the closest one but a hub airport almost always offers better deals. Don’t forget to add in parking and extra gas costs to be sure it’s worth it.
6. Look for package deals
Flight + hotel + car might save money. Some airlines and online travel agents offer package deals with extras you don’t want or need but might still be cheaper than a flight alone. If the dates work for you, and the price is right, consider it. You can always discard the extras if say, you don’t need a hotel room. If you’re a super procrastinator, this might be the only way you’ll find a seat during the busy holiday period.
7. Look for (but don’t expect) last-minute deals
Give it a try but expect nothing. Once upon a time, airlines sometimes had leftover seats at holiday time that they were desperate to fill and did so with desperate, last-minute discounting. This is almost unheard of today, as the airlines have become excellent managers of aircraft capacity. Only try this if you don’t need to make the trip. For everyone else, shop now.
Bonus Tip – Pack light
As airfare expert Rick Seaney always says, “Use a carry-on and save on the checked-bag fee.” Thanksgiving is not a long holiday so you won’t need much. And if you do spill gravy on your shirt, Mom has a washing machine, right?