1. Don’t wait until the last minute
While it’s true that last minute travel deals can sometimes save you up to 50 percent, don’t expect deals like this on major travel holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's. Amazing last-minute deals are traditionally hard to come by. Waiting until the week or so up until these holidays can leave you unable to find airfare at all, causing you to miss out on holiday fun. Start pricing options now and look for good overall savings rather than an incredible deal. To give you a better idea of how much you can save if you book early, FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney recently stated that research shows you can plan on $5 being added to your ticket for each day you wait to book. In addition, those who wait until late October can expect to pay an average of nearly $140 more for their Thanksgiving airfare ticket.
2. Keep an eye on your email
Sign up on Airfarewatchdog.com and pick a specific route that you are interested in flying. The site will send you an email as soon it finds a bargain airfare that is better than average.
Another way to save is by using Yapta.com. Most airlines will refund you the difference if your ticket price drops after you have purchased it. However, keeping an eye on these fares and subtracting the rebooking fee can be a hassle. Luckily, Yapta does the work for you. Plug in your flight confirmation number, and this website will track your ticket price so you don't have to. If your ticket price refund surpasses the rebooking fee, Yapta will notify you via email or an alert via Twitter.
Another great resource is Bing Travel. Their Price Predictor tool will tell you whether ticket prices on your dates are expected to rise, go down, or stay the same based on past data. This is another great way to play with dates and see where deals can be found!
3. Be flexible about travel dates
It probably will not surprise you to hear that some of the most expensive days to travel are the day before Thanksgiving and Christmas, the weekend before the holiday, and the Sunday after the holiday. According to Orbitz, traveling the day before Thanksgiving this year will cost an average of $499 per ticket; however, flying on Thanksgiving Day itself drops to an average airfare price of $406. For Christmas, flying the Saturday before Christmas has an average ticket price of $591, yet flying in on Christmas Eve drops the price to an average of $408. In terms of price, November 27th, the day before Thanksgiving, is considered the most expensive day to travel. For those who want to skip crowded airports, don't fly on December 1st or 2nd (when most people fly home from Thanksgiving) or on December 21st.
4. Take advantage of dead week
Here is another great tip from FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney. The entire week after each major holiday is considered "dead week" to those in the travel industry. If you can be flexible with your dates and don’t have to rush back, plan your flight home during dead week. Seaney states that during dead week, travelers may find deals slashed up to 60 percent compared to holiday prices and take advantage of the many empty seats. The first half of January tends to be one of the best times to snag this deal, as most people are worn out and wallets have been emptied from the holidays. Come Martin Luther King weekend, people start celebrating (and traveling) again during their three day weekend. To give you a better idea of dead week deals, an average flight from L.A. to N.Y. during Christmas week is around $700—but during "dead week" (January 4-11), this same ticket averages $400.
5. Price out alternative airports
If your holiday travel is taking you to a large city, consider smaller, regional airports rather than major hubs. Most regional airports are just a short drive away and can offer you significantly lower airfare prices. Consider smaller airports such as Niagara instead of Buffalo or Providence instead of Boston. Also, look into fare clubs, such as the Spirit $9 Fare Club. For a yearly fee of $59.95, you can find extremely low airfare prices and save on baggage fees. These flights often travel to smaller airports and during off-peak travel times, but you can't beat the low prices!
6. Don't skimp on travel insurance
Many factors make the holidays one of the worst times to travel. Jam-packed flights, long security lines, nasty winter weather, and crowded airports create the perfect mix for something to go wrong. A cancelled flight, lost or stolen luggage, or an unexpected illness are all things that can ruin your holiday. Instead of adding more stress to an already stressful time, spend the few extra dollars on travel insurance and have peace of mind knowing you are protected. Travel insurance typically costs between 4–8 percent of your trip. Calculate the cost of your tickets, how much all items in your suitcase are worth, and other fees incurred for your trip. If you cannot afford to or hate the idea of having to replace your items (or lose money spent on your trip) should something go wrong, buy the insurance. Visit Quotewright.com where you can access descriptive grids that allow you to compare policies from dozens of travel insurance companies.