If plan to fly in the next couple of days or weeks but don't have a ticket yet, we can help, but before you pack, take a look at our the last-minute checklist for Christmas, holiday, New Year's travel. You might be able to save save money, maybe even some time and trouble.
Finding Last-Minute Deals
There are few genuine deals for peak-season travel, but these tips will help you locate the best ticket prices possible.
- Shop now: The longer you delay, the higher the price.
- Always compare fares: If you go to a single airline's site to book tickets, you may pay too much. No single airline site always has the cheapest fares.
- 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:
- Look for overnight flights or flights at dawn.
- Compare fares for connecting flights with non-stops; more convenient non-stops often cost more.
- Flying on the holiday is usually cheaper than the days around it.
- Use miles/points: If you can use some of your points on tickets (or wheedle some from family or friends) this can reduce overall costs.
Last-Minute Travel Checklist
1. Print boarding passes at home.
Yes, put the boarding pass on your phone but phones die. And printing a boarding pass at an airport kiosk can delay you in the airport and there are already plenty of long lines. An airline rep could print it out for you but some airlines charge a fee for this.
- Tip: Don't have a printer? Get a friend to do it.
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 the 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! – another fee and some overweight bag fees run as high as $200.
- Tip: Airline baggage police will be out in force during the holidays and they will take too big/too heavy carry-ons away from you and put them in cargo. If this happens to you, 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, be patient; this may come in handy in the event of delays or cancellations. Several 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 nice; you may encourage others to do the same.
That's it. Now go and have a wonderful trip.