Saving on Holiday Travel

October 20, 2011

Now is the time to start booking your travel plans.

Don't wait to book
Average domestic airfare is 4% higher than last year In a recent consumer holiday survey by Orbitz, 60% of holiday travelers will not book their travel by the end of October. Overall, airfare prices to the top destinations is up for Thanksgiving weekend. My best advice is that once you see a price you are comfortable with, book it! If prices do drop, it will only be minimal, and the more likely chance is that they will go up (especially for peak travel days) as flights start to fill. And the longer you wait, you'll be left will less and less flight choices during this compact/busy travel weekend.

Flexibility is key on several fronts
Thanksgiving weekend: Thur/Fri. are cheapest days to travel
Consider flying from another airport (ie. Milwaukee In't Airport)
Connections can save you $100 per ticket

Avoid the busiest & most expensive travel days - over Thanksgiving weekend will be Wed 11/23 and Sun 11/26 (Thurs and Fri are the cheapest days to travel). Be flexible about where you fly from. O'Hare is always one of the busiest airports in the country over the holidays. Don't rule out Milwaukee In't Airport - a great option, esp if you live in the northern suburbs.

Connections will save you money. Not ideal in my book, but if money is your main concern, taking a flight that has a connection can save you upwards of $100 per ticket.

Book multiple airlines. Sites like Orbitz will give you options that may fly you on one carrier departing and a different carrier returning. This can save you $$ as well.

Timing is everything
Take the first flights of the day; avoid last flight of day
Busiest travel days: Wed and Sun

If you can, take one of the first flights of the day. On the busiest days (Wed and Sun) delays will only get longer throughout the day. Booking early also ensures that if your flight gets cancelled, you'll have a better chance of getting on another flight the same day. Avoid at all costs booking the last flight of the day.

Think outside-the-box for destination & hotel deals

Consider choosing a hotel in the business/financial districts
Save by booking packages for airfare and hotel
Save by traveling week *AFTER* Thanksgiving

If you want to get away over the holidays, look to a destination like Washington, DC - with Congress out of session and biz travelers on vacation, you'll find this is a great time of year to visit and get great hotel deals - and less crowds to many of the popular museums & moments.

If you plan to go to popular holiday city destination (NYC, San Fran, etc.) choose a hotel in the business/financial districts. During the week they are full of biz travelers, but on the weekends & over the holidays they reduce prices to draw in leisure travelers. You'll save a lot vs. staying in the big shopping/theatre areas.

If you plan to book both airfare and hotel, book them together as a package - you'll always save vs. booking them separately.

Finally, if you have some vacation days to use before the end of the year, consider traveling the week AFTER Thanksgiving - typically one of the least traveled weeks - and less expensive weeks to travel during the year.

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