At a Glance
If you plan on traveling this holiday season, you must make some decisions as soon as possible. Your window for getting a good deal on flights and lodging for Thanksgiving or Christmas travel is rapidly closing. Here is everything you need to know about saving money this holiday season.
What to expect
Prices will be the highest they have been in multiple years to travel this fall and winter. Fuel is more expensive, inflation is running rampant, and there is still a heightened demand for travel following the pandemic. Over half of Americans anticipate traveling over the holiday season so you can expect long lines at security and inflated prices. Fares are anywhere from 30% to 50% higher for holiday travel than in previous years, even in 2019, before the pandemic.
For domestic flights, you should budget at least $350 for Thanksgiving travel and $500 or more for Christmas travel. If you have not already booked your tickets, you will need to do so within the next couple of days.
If you need some extra help to finance your holiday travel, use Credello’s personal loan calculator to estimate monthly payments and find the best rates on vacation loans.
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When to book
Time is of the essence for booking holiday travel. Experts predict that prices will get astronomically higher for Thanksgiving flights after October 20th, which is just around the corner. The longer you wait, the more you will pay. Expect your desired flights to increase by at least $10 every day as you wait to book.
Ideally, you already have your Thanksgiving and Christmas tickets, as the best time to book has already passed. If not, heed the warning and book now, as they will likely not get any cheaper than they are this second. If nothing seems to be working, you can hope for a last-minute deal to save your trip. If you are willing to risk having to stay home for the holidays, you can wait to book flights until a couple of days before, as they might have a flash sale to fill up empty seats. You run the risk of not being able to score a deal, but this can be a great last resort.
If you find a great deal, you can book and change later without paying a change fee at many major airlines. This way, if you find a better deal after booking, you could cancel and rebook or change your flight and get the difference back that you paid. If you don’t want to go through this hassle, you can always hold your fare, which many airlines or credit card portals allow you to do. You just pay a set amount of cash or miles to lock in a fare for a certain number of days while you look at different options. Then, if the flight gets more expensive while you are looking, you have the last fare locked in.
is the amount the average person put on their credit card for travel expenses on holiday travel in 2021.
How to save
Thanksgiving is about a month away, and Christmas is less than two months away, so you are limited in your options to save substantial amounts of money. However, the biggest tip would be to be flexible with the days and times you fly. If you are willing to catch a flight at 5 o’clock in the morning, you might get lucky and get a good deal. Although not ideal, it is typically cheaper to fly on the day of a holiday. If you don’t mind flying in to see family on Thanksgiving or Christmas day and doing a later celebration, you can get huge discounts, as most people do not want to do so. Flying on the weekends is generally more expensive, especially on weekends surrounding a major holiday. If you fly on a weekday, you can save quite a bit. Consider the Monday before Thanksgiving, which is expected to be about 30% cheaper than flying the day before Sunday.
Use tools like Google Flights and Hopper to compare dates, times, and airlines to ensure you get the best deal. These tools let you see the price history for the exact flights you are looking at and will let you know if now is an excellent time to book. These resources are great for comparing all different options and getting creative to find a path that works best for your situation.
Another way to save on holiday travel is to drive instead of fly. Of course, driving is not necessarily an option if you plan on flying across the country. But if you are only going within your state or a couple of states away, a road trip can save hundreds or more on airfare tickets.
Lastly, use credit card points and miles to book flights, as airlines often do not hike up the prices on mile redemption the same way they do when booking with cash. Not only can cards give you things like priority boarding and free checked bags, but if you are smart, you can score a free flight. Now is a great time to use your companion tickets or vouchers you have been holding onto.
If you haven’t booked holiday travel yet, don’t worry. You are not entirely out of luck, but you should start solidifying your plans to make travel more economical.