Booking Your Holiday Travel

by Susanna Hamilton, Contributing Editor on November 4, 2013

Holiday Travel
The holidays are rapidly approaching, which means your window for finding affordable airfare for holiday travel is rapidly closing. Nevertheless, there are still a few tricks to saving money on your holiday travel.

Book Now or Plan on Paying Exorbitant Prices:

Unfortunately.. the best time for finding the most affordable fares for your holiday travel has passed. Although if you keep your eyes open and do your homework you may still be able to find something acceptable over the next few weeks.

According to Kayak, mid-October holiday airfares saw increases of 17% for Thanksgiving travel, with Christmas airfares increasing 51% and New Year’s Eve airfares up 25%.

Prices can fluctuate throughout the week, and even hour by hour throughout the day. Most savvy travelers are also aware that airfares generally drop earlier in the week. Travelers should decide how much they are willing to pay and how much is too much!

Meanwhile.. remain vigilant.. and if you find a price within your budget, be prepared to book it immediately.

There are some helpful tools available as well:

  • Bing’s Travel Price Predictor:
    This tool indicates whether it is best to buy now or wait. The results are based on historical data.. so they may be somewhat accurate.  However.. I would not rely on them completely.  Sometimes you really just need to go with your own instinct.

Try to Avoid the Busiest Airports:

For larger cities you will find there is normally more than one airport.  If possible.. try to plan your flights through these alternative, less busy airports. This may mean longer drive times.. but any extra time spent getting to the airport will be worth it when you consider the lengthy wait times as well as additional stress and frustrations of the larger airports.

The two busiest airports in the U.S are LAX and O’Hare. Wait times at these airports are estimated to be a minimum of 90 minutes. Both of these cities have alternative airports to choose from. Other airports among the top ten busiest airports, according to Orbitz, are San Francisco International, LaGuardia, Boston Logan International, and JFK International.

If you do find yourself subject to the inconveniences of these larger airports.. it may be helpful to have one of the airline credit cards which offer Premium travel rewards for their cardholders.  After enduring an extended wait time.. you may find it comforting to receive Priority Boarding when your flight is ready to board.

Other perks with the various airline credit cards can also include.. free bonus miles, first bag checked free, annual companion certificates, concierge services and much more.

Early Boarding Fees Are Worth It:

If you do not have one of the airline credit cards offering Priority Boarding.. you can still avoid the waiting line to board, and make sure you find overhead bin space, by choosing to pay for early boarding.

Most of the major airlines offer an early boarding upgrade for a small fee. Being in the priority boarding line insures that you will get on the plane before those who must wait for general boarding.

Airline prices differ, but most offer the early boarding upgrade for between $10 and $20. When traveling during the busiest times of the year, planes are sure to be fully booked, and early boarding will certainly be well worth the price.

Pick the Best Travel Days:

Common sense would dictate that the best times for flying are when most others are not. That could mean traveling on Thanksgiving Day or on Christmas Day.  Most times you will find that families can enjoy Thanksgiving dinner just as much on Friday as on Thursday.

Orbitz has indicated that on the Saturday just prior to Christmas.. airfares are averaging $591.. compared to $408 for those willing to travel on Christmas Eve.  In considering your return flight.. or in booking a flight for New Year’s Eve.. Saturday, December 28 seems to be the most expensive departure date.. with airfares averaging $513.

Perhaps you will be able to extend your holiday.. planning your return on less expensive days. Kayak has a helpful Best Fares calendar showing the average daily airfares so you can pick the best inbound/outbound dates for your travel.

Protect Yourself Against Delays and Cancelled Flights:

Does your travel include connecting flights?  Try to book the earliest flight when possible. This way if there are any glitches in the airlines’ schedules.. you will have more options available to you than if you were to get a late start.

Don’t Check Your Bags:

Worried about your bags being lost or delayed during holiday travel? This is definitely a legitimate concern! Check the figures below for mishandled luggage over the past year, courtesy of the Department of Transportation:

December 2012 – 4.15 mishandled bag reports per 1,000 passengers
VS
May 2013 – 2.96 mishandled bag reports per 1,000 passengers

These figures clearly indicate that with increased holiday travel.. comes increased claims for checked luggage as well. To avoid headaches perhaps you should consider shipping to your destination via FedEx, UPS or another of the luggage shipping/delivery services.

You may pay a little more than if you were to check them with the airlines.. but you also get door-to-door service as well as a guarantee.  The convenience.. combined with the fact you will not have to fight the crowds in the baggage claim area.. nor maneuver the airport with heavy bags.. may well be worth a few extra bucks.

Be Flexible with Your Choice of Hotels:

If your holiday travel will include a hotel stay.. be prepared for higher prices and less availability in this area as well.  Try to be somewhat flexible.  If you normally stay at the Hilton.. but Hilton’s in the area are booked.. you may want to consider another of the Hilton properties.. such as Hilton Garden Inn or Hampton Inn.

These hotels are comfortable and clean.. and in the case of Hampton Inn.. they offer a free breakfast.  You may not get Eggs Benedict.. but they do have fruit and juice, coffee and pastries as well as bacon and eggs.

You might also want to take advantage of any discounts available to you.. such as AAA, AARP, Entertainment and/or any other memberships or reward points you may be entitled to.  Some credit card travel rewards may have blackout dates during holidays and other high demand times of the year.. but many do not. It is definitely worth checking into.

Get Away From it All Completely!

Since other countries are not celebrating Thanksgiving.. this could be a good time to just get away for a relaxing 4-day weekend.  Sure.. you’ll miss out on the turkey.. but you will also spare yourself the stress of dealing with the crowds on domestic flights.. or gaining weight as a result of eating too much.. as we all do on Thanksgiving.

Our neighbors up North already celebrated their Thanksgiving.. so maybe a nice four-day getaway to Vancouver or Montreal would be fun.

Or.. head South.. Cancun in November and December is absolutely wonderful!

 

Article Courtesy of Credit Card Approval Center

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