Flexible times, dates and airport choices can save money on holiday airfare.
At Thanksgiving, you want to visit family far away. Over Christmas break, you want to go somewhere warm, and perhaps even tropical.
But to do so, you have to fly, and for some, the trip involves multiple airplane tickets for the entire family. In today’s air travel market, that’s a huge expense.
There are rules to follow to lessen the expense, and the first one is easy: get started now.
Airline tickets are generally cheaper in September than in October as the holidays get nearer. Ticket prices drop after the Labor Day weekend, but climb steadily every day that goes by. Do not hold on to the concept that there will be a fare sale between now and the holidays.
However, there are ways to avoid paying the highest price for a ticket, and the easiest way to do that is to be flexible with travel dates. For Thanksgiving, waiting to fly on the Wednesday before, and planning to fly home on the Sunday after is going to cost you. According to Jeff Klee, CEO of CheapAir.com, flying on Tuesday before Thanksgiving and returning on Friday or Saturday after will save as much as $50 round-trip.
Also, flexibility includes flying at extreme times. If you can get the kids up and running in time to catch the first flight out of town, the savings can be another $50 per round trip. The same goes for the last flight out.
Most airline websites offer the “flexible search’’ option, which will show the fares available on all flights at all times to your destination.
Another suggestion from Klee is to shop, and buy, on a Wednesday. “Wednesday is a good day to check for airfares because a lot of airline start sales on Tuesday that last 24 to 48 hours, and then other airlines will match their prices,’’ Klee told the New York Times.
When you find an airfare that sounds too good to be true, be sure to check the airlines fees for baggage. Some charge you to check a bag, and some charge you to carry one on. That can affect the bottom line price you will pay.
All of the above ideas require a willingness to be pliable about travel plans. So there needs to be a meeting of the minds prior to making plans so that cheap fares can be bought quickly.
That’s because cheap fares will disappear on you at a moment’s notice. If you assume everyone is doing the same thing you are doing, you have to beat everyone else to the punch and click “make purchase” when you find a fare you can live with.
Flexibility extends to where you fly from. Although you may have a major hub near you, you perhaps have a regional airport within a fair distance that will have cheaper fares. Flying out of Chicago, for instance, allows the customer to choose between O’Hare, Midway, Rockford, Ill., or Milwaukee.
Although this may sound counter-intuitive, sometimes it is cheaper to fly two legs rather than one. Non-stops are popular, and therefore can be more expensive. Examine the possibility of making a stop along the way.
When it comes to the Christmas break, you once again want to try to fly before or after everyone else is flying if you want to fly cheaper than they do. Also, unless you have a set destination in mind, traveling to an off-season destination rather than a tropical location can make for an enjoyable, affordable and less crowded vacation.
Finally, keep an eye on your flight plan once you make a purchase. Most airlines will offer a rebate, probably in the form of a travel voucher, if the flight you booked suddenly has a cheaper airfare.
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.