Flying home for the holidays has the potential to be a total bank buster. You’re already saving up extra cash to buy presents for your family, so the last thing you want to worry about is setting aside extra money for a plane ticket to get home—especially during one of the worst economic crunches our country has ever experienced. But before you phone home to tell Mom and Dad you’re opting out of family festivities this year in order to save cash, try these easy money-saving tips from David, our travel specialist at Airtrek.com. Whether you’re traveling across the country or just across the state, you’ll still get home in time to give—and receive—your gifts.
1. It pays not to procrastinate “Prices will not go down,” says David. “It’s like reservations at a restaurant. Once the seat is gone, it’s gone. So book early! Sometimes it’s cheaper to fly on Christmas day, but that’s only if you take your chances that there will be a seat open, and this late in the season, I highly doubt it.” So, if you haven’t booked yet, get on the phone with an agent and do it now. Tip for next year: Don’t let September go by without booking your flight home for Christmas.” To get the best possibly flight price, you need at least three months in advance,” says David.
2. Connect, connect, connect You can get anywhere in the United States with one connection. Most airlines only use two connections if you’re going to a very small airport. Business travelers fly direct because they want to get to their destination as quickly as possible, so if you have a few hours to spare, take advantage of a connection. “You’ll end up paying twice as much, or more, for a direct flight in most cases,” says David.
2. Bigger is (typically) better Learn what airports are in your area and shop around. “Newark is almost always cheaper than JFK, and L.A. has at least three main airports,” says David. “Keep in mind a smaller airport doesn’t necessarily mean more expensive tickets. It depends where you are flying and what time of the year, so keep your search wide.”
3. Watch out for forecasting websites
While they are a worthwhile resource, these websites predict air ticket prices based on the previous year’s prices during that time so they are not always that accurate, David warns. “The rule of thumb is to book as early as possible, at least three months in advance.”
4. Stay through Saturday night Business travelers only travel Monday to Friday, so airlines know they can charge through the roof for tickets not booked to include a Saturday night stay. “If you stay the weekend and fly home Monday, your ticket price will almost always be reduced by a third,” says David. No matter where you’re going, try to stay Saturday night so your ticket will be distinguished from business travelers’ tickets.
5. Know when NOT to be your own travel agent Most airlines charge you a $20 booking fee when you call their 1-800 number and book through an agent. If you prefer talking to an agent, get the flight numbers priced out, go online, find the same flight and book it yourself for $20+ less. BUT, says David, if you are booking holiday flights this late in the season, call an agent because they may be able to make you cheaper connections than a computer website that generates high fares during this time.