How to Snag the Cheapest Deals for Winter Vacations

If you are looking to escape the cold weather, try traveling during the first two weeks in December. You can find cheap flights during this period more easily because Thanksgiving trips are over and Christmas travel has not started. Business travel tends to be light during those two weeks as well.

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Here are three examples of FareCompare round-trip searches for December 5-12, as compared to December 22-29:

Route Low fare Dec. 5-12 Low fare Dec 22-29
New York – Los Angeles $293 on Frontier $540 on Airtran
Chicago – San Francisco $199 on American $406 on United
Atlanta – Seattle $299 on Delta $495 on Frontier

As you see, just a couple of weeks can mean a savings of hundreds of dollars in airfare.

You will also find great travel deals during most of January, with the exception of the New Year’s holiday. In fact, you should be able to grab low airfares all the way through March, with the exception of popular Spring Break or NCAA basketball tournament dates (depending on the city).

Top (and Cheap) Winter Destinations
Top destinations for discounted winter travel include the Northwest – particularly Seattle, Vancouver and Calgary. If you want to escape the cold, look for great package deals to Mexican hot spots such as Los Cabos and Cancun, or Caribbean destinations such as Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.

There are some destinations where you will not save significantly by traveling during “dead” travel periods. Popular world capitals such as New York, London and Paris will be expensive pretty much year round. Of course, you can still maximize your chances of snagging a great airfare deal by setting up a FareCompare travel alert for your favorite destination.

Finding Winter Hotel Deals
When vacancies are low, you can often get the best rates by foregoing the hotel’s website and toll-free number and contacting individual hotels directly. If you have booked a good hotel rate early, it cannot hurt to check back in a week or two and find out whether rates have gone down. Depending on the hotel’s cancellation policy, you may be able to cancel and rebook for less money.

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Car Rental Savings Tips
With rental cars, you can usually save big by renting weekly rather than daily. If this is not possible, check your credit card rewards program and details of any professional associations you belong to. You may be able to use credit card rewards to pay for your rental car, or your professional association may entitle you to a discount. Searching online for discount codes on rental cars can also save you money. Be aware that rental car rates booked online may be very different from those you are quoted when you call the company’s toll-free number. Check both, to be certain which is cheaper.

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Updated: November 13, 2014