Last-Minute Deals, Last-Minute Checklist for Christmas/Holiday/New Year’s

If you plan to fly in the next couple of days or weeks but don't have a ticket yet, we can help. Take a look at our the last-minute checklist for Christmas, Holiday, New Year's travel. You might be able to save some money, maybe even some time and trouble.

Finding Last-Minute Deals

There are few genuine deals for peak-season travel like holidays but these tips will help you locate the best prices possible.

  1. Shop now: The longer you delay, the more you pay.
  2. Always compare fares: If you go to a single airline site to book tickets, you could pay too much, maybe even way too much. No single airline site always has the cheapest fares. The solution: Shop an airfare comparison site.
  3. Look for unpopular flight times and travel days: Depending on the route and when you buy, you can save by trying one of these strategies:
    • Overnight flights or flights at dawn are often cheaper than more popular times to fly.
    • Compare fares for connecting flights with non-stops; non-stops are more convenient but you often pay more for this convenience.
    • The holiday itself (Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, New Year's Day) is usually the a cheaper time to fly than the days surrounding the holiday.
  4. Use miles/points: If you can use some of your points to pay for your tickets (or use some from generous family members), this can reduce overall costs.

Last-Minute Travel Checklist

1. Print boarding passes at home.

Phones sometimes die when least expected. Sure, put the boarding pass on your phone but also print a copy at home or in the hotel. Printing passes at airport kiosks can be handy but during holidays, you may have to wait in line. Also, if you're flying a discount carrier, asking the airline rep to print your pass could cost you a fee.

  • Tip: Don't have a printer? Ask a friend that has one.

2. Leave for the airport extra early.

When we say early, we mean double the usual. Maybe you fly all the time and know exactly when you can depart for the airport, but holidays mean airports will be crowded with lots of people who don't fly much and their unfamiliarity with parking, bag restrictions and security regulations can slow everyone down. Besides, all it takes is one traffic accident on the way to the airport to screw up the best-laid plans.

  • Tip: Don't miss your flight. Plan to arrive at the airport at least 90 minutes early for domestic flights and two to three hours early for international flights. Err on the side of getting to the airport extra-early. Bring a snack and bring a charger cord for your electronic device.

3. Weigh bags after you pack.

Most airlines allow up to 50 lbs. per checked-bag. Carry-ons are sometimes limited to 25 lbs. Go over the limit and, surprise! You'll pay another fee and overweight bag fees can run as high as $200.

  • Tip: Airline baggage police will be out in force during the holidays and often take too big or too heavy carry-ons away from you to place in cargo. If this happens, be sure to remove all must-haves including medications, electronics, cords, whatever you'll need on the flight.

4. Did you pack your ___?

Must-pack suggestions: Medications, eyeglasses, contact lenses, phones, tablets, printed boarding pass, passport (if needed), documents regarding pets, documents confirming age of 'lap children' (must be under 2), food/lunch, edible treats and games for kids, etc. Keep these items on your person or in a carry-on.

  • Tip: Do not pack valuables. They can get lost or stolen and most airlines will not cover these losses. The airline definition of 'valuable' is pretty loose, too, covering such things as sunglasses, books, electronics, photographs plus big ticket items like furs and jewels.

5. Be nice (and not just because it's the right thing to do).

Don't let the holidays stress you out. Remain calm and patient; this may come in handy in the event of delays or cancellations. Anonymous airline employees have told us, "Who would you rather help, the angry guy screaming at you or the nice guy who says 'please'?"

  • Tip: Be the nice guy. It might even encourage others to do the same.

That's it. Now go and have a wonderful trip.

Rick Seaney
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