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7 Booking Tricks Last Minute Travelers Can Use to Save on Holiday Airfare

Written by Staff Writer

This blog post was updated on April 14, 2022.

Booking during the holiday season can be really stressful. Airfares keep rising every day and fly options dwindle while we try to figure out all the missing details for your trip. Some travelers were born for this, and have no problem at all booking early and succeeding at scoring cheap flights. Last-minute planners, on the other hand, might find things more difficult. Worry not, flight procrastinators. Just put in practice these useful tips and you might be able to save on holiday airfares without forking over your entire paycheck!

Rethink your Dates

The most expensive day to fly before an important holiday is, appropriately, the day before that important day. Rather than pairing down your flight search to just the day before Thanksgiving, for example, shake up the calendar a bit. If you can leave any other day, you can save yourself from paying double or triple the price on a plane ticket. Travelers returning home after the holidays should also get creative by going beyond the usual flight search options. To survive the holidays without going bankrupt, you need to think outside the box with your travel days!

Fly, Even if it’s a Short Distance!

For most travelers, the last place they want to be on Thanksgiving or Christmas is the airport. However, if you aren’t traveling too far, a ticket for that same day might just be the one for you. Search for those flights and might see fares almost too good to be true. If you can fly out in the morning or early afternoon and still make it, you should consider this option to save a great deal of cash!

Get Up Early (or Head Home Late)

If you’re booking your holiday flights with just a little over a month out, prices might seem high no matter what you do. However, the same rule of thumb that applies to all other times of the year, applies to holiday travel too. If you fly early or head home later in the day, you will often find the cheapest airfare out of the high price tags featured throughout the week. Early morning flights and late evening departures are almost always more affordable than those throughout the day.

Make a Trip Out of It by Adding Stopovers!

Most of those traveling for the holidays are trying to get home at a specific time. However, if you leave around close to the desired date, you’re going to have a hard time avoiding steep airfares. With last-minute holiday travel, you have to get creative! If you can add a stopover to your journey that makes your ticket significantly cheaper — even when you factor in getting a hotel for the night at that stop — it might be worth turning your little stop into a  vacation on its own!

Be Flexible With Your Travel Date

Flexibility is key when you want to book cheaper flights for the holidays. With that tool in your box, you can find airfares that are near rock-bottom when it comes to cost. Yet, preparation is required to make this happen. It can’t take place a few days before your trip, particularly if it’s in the heart of the holiday travel season. Instead, you have to research this well-ahead of time. First, there are more options available. Second, it allows you to take the necessary time off from work.

You also want to see if flexible dates are worth it for the desired destination. If it’s a flight to visit your family, then it doesn’t matter what the weather is like. However, if your destination is somewhere else, then you may want to wait until things warm up or become less stormy. If you decide to go the flexible route, then know that the flight times you want might not be available. It could be an early morning takeoff or somewhere late in the evening. Also, take in mind that this flight might have several connections that can extend your time in the air big time.

You may also like: Thanksgiving Travel Tips to Make Your Holidays Stress-Free

Mix And Match Your Flights!

One of the advantages of booking your trip online is the ability to mix and match airlines for cheaper airfares. This wasn’t possible happen when you booked a flight many years ago: the carrier you used to get to your destination was the same one used to get back home. Today, you can use aggregate sites to select different carriers. The flights you select are considered one-way. As a result, you pay less for both trips!

In fact, you might be able to save more money if you arrive at one airport and fly out in another. For instance, you might arrive at Newark International Airport. Yet, your trip takes you to South Jersey or Philadelphia to visit your relatives. Rather than driving back up the Turnpike or I-95, you can take your return flight home from Philadelphia International. The only caveat to this latter suggestion is it might cost extra to drop off your rental car at another airport. The best thing to do then is to contact the agencies you’re interested in and ask them about one-way rentals!

Book A Red-Eye Flight

Red-eye flights aren’t as bad as they once were, and they actually can help save on holiday airfares. In fact, airlines have cheap one way flights during this time because they know how popular they’ve become. A red-eye works best for cross-country and international flights. For instance, if you leave California at midnight, you’ll arrive well past sunrise in New York. If you sleep on the plane, then you reduce the risk of jetlag.

The recommended way to sleep during a red-eye is to purchase an eye mask and earplugs. They block the lights and sounds of the plane. Though many people are asleep like you, there’s still enough activity to be disturbed. Also, consider a neck pillow. Horseshoe-shaped, it goes around your neck and cushions your head. It not only helps avoid neck pain and headaches but keeps you comfortable when turbulence occurs!

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Staff Writer

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