Saving on Holiday Travel

November 4, 2013

Secrets to saving on Holiday Travel

If you're a procrastinator, you're not alone. Only 50% of Americans will book their holiday travel by the end of October. That's a lot of people who still need to find a flight, and possibly hotel (86% say they'd prefer to stay in a hotel vs. with family). And with holiday airfares up 9%, being strategic about your travel plans can pay off.

1. Book your tickets now. Airlines are offering fewer flights and making fewer seats available which contributes to higher airfares. The rush of people expected to travel this holiday season will also drive prices up. Airfares are 9% higher compared to last year, so if you haven't booked your flight yet, do it soon as fares will only go up and up as the holidays near.

2. Fly on the Holiday. Arriving at your destination the day before Thanksgiving (or Christmas) is always ideal though it is typically the most expensive day to travel and where you will find the most crowds. If you're looking to save a little money and your schedule permits look for flights the morning of the holiday.
Example: From Chicago to Atlanta (Wed to Sun of Thanksgiving) -- $387; (Thurs to Mon) -- $315

3. Fly here not there. Whenever possible, consider the alternative. While the primary airport in your destination city might be closer and more convenient, considering a smaller airport can save you money and the hassle of navigating massive crowds and traffic.
Example: Over Thanksgiving - Chicago Midway to DC - $430; Chicago O'Hare to DC - $371

4. Don't leave money on the table. Don't overlook the potential savings by tapping into loyalty rewards this holiday season-it's estimated consumers leave $16 billion in loyalty rewards unredeemed each year. Many programs have a lot of black-out dates and restrictions during the holiday season so your best is booking early to beat the system. Orbitz just launched Orbitz Rewards, when you book a flight, you instantly get money to use on a hotel AND there are no black-out dates. Plus through the Thanksgiving holiday, Orbitz is picking up the tab for your first checked bag - members receive an immediate $25 Orbucks credit to use on a holiday hotel stay.

5. Connection vs. Nonstop. Know the difference before you fly. Flights with a connection or multiple connections have a greater chance of delays and worst case scenario leave you stranded in an unfamiliar city. While connection flights might be easier on your wallet, non-stop flights generally have less travel snafus.

6. Package it. We're not talking about gifts here. A package deal may end up being cheaper than booking airfare and hotel separately, and sometimes a package can be cheaper than airfare alone.
a. Example: Chicago to Cancun; Airfare +34 Night at Hyatt Regency Cancun for 2 travelers Thanksgiving weekend:
- Booked separately - $1,576
- Booked together -- $1,356
- SAVINGS = $220

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