Planning Holiday travel? BOOK NOW. The normal “42 days in advance” recommendation is out the window for the holidays! According to this website, a study by the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC), passengers pay the lowest price, nearly 6 percent below the average fare, if they buy six weeks before their flight. That means you need to make plans at least 42 days in advance of the day you would like to travel. Translation: if you are going home for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, NOW is the time to book your flight! Here are some more tips to saving on your tickets this holiday season:
Try not to buy your tickets over the weekend. Airline companies know this is when you have the most time to buy, so the prices will be higher. The best time to buy tickets is on Tuesday afternoons* (after 3pm Eastern). This is when the airlines lower their prices from the weekend, and match each other’s sale prices. When you search for a departure date, you will find that the cheapest day to fly is Wednesday (this is because most people do not prefer to travel in the middle of the week), the second two cheapest days are Tuesday and Saturday. The most expensive days to travel are Friday and Sunday. To further maximize your savings buy the first flight of the day or the red eye flight. (For more detailed information on how airlines price their flights, go here). * Some argue that shopping early in the morning on weekdays also allows you to find newly announced low fares and you to snag lower prices before the low fares sell out.
If you have flexible travel dates and timing options, I like to use itasoftware.com, which lets you see the entire months of fare prices across multiple airlines to find best price, and hipmunk.com, which allows you to see departing dates and times in a select time range (plus or minus three days) in one screen with prices and "pain" of flight. (high pain = 8 hour travel day with 3 connections...) Depending on where you live, try to pick larger and more popular airports, The closest airport to me is Fresno International Airport but I can find tickets out of San Francisco and Los Angeles that normally save me a few hundred dollars (well worth making the drive)!
If you have a set destination in mind (I put my hometown in these searches) sign up for price reduction notifications, so you can buy a ticket when they are cheap! (Finding deals like this is RARE during holidays season, do not wait and book your trip for the month of November and December as soon as possible)
If you can be spontaneous and plan a last minute trip (Christmas in the Caribbean anyone!?), or are just looking for a travel deal with no specific destination in mind, it is advantageous to follow your airline of choice on Twitter and Pinterest and "Like" them on Facebook. Many will announce deals and short sales, and you can be the first to know!
Lastly, when you do manage to book your flight (and hopefully saved some money), sign up for the airline's rewards programs. Earning miles is usually free and you may get your seat upgraded. Often times being a reward member of an airline or having their credit card or loyalty program can get you free upgrades, earlier check in and discounted ticket prices. After you travel a few times you can use those points for a free or discounted ticket!
What are your tips and tricks to save on travel during the holiday season?