The good news is that you can still get great deals for now through January 6. The bad news is that you won't have as many options as you normally would. You'll find it easier if you're flexible—about both where you go and when you go.
Why you should consider a package
Packages—where you pay one price for several parts of a trip (usually at least air and hotel)—can be major bargains. Here's why: To fill rooms and seats, hotels and airlines will resort to rock-bottom prices. For obvious reasons, they don't like to publicize these rates, so they sell a certain number of rooms or seats to companies that bundle them in packages. That way, no one knows exactly what the airfare or hotel alone costs.
At this time of year, the hard part is finding an airfare—and packagers may have airfares that no one else does. Moreover, during busy times like the holidays, you can get stuck wondering if you should first buy your airfare or reserve your hotel. With a package, you do both simultaneously. (And buying a package is easy. Let's face it: If you were the kind of person who really liked planning travel, you probably would've planned a holiday trip a long time ago.)
A few things to bear in mind before you buy a package: 1. The only way to know if it's a deal is to see what it costs to book the parts separately. 2. Don't trust the packager's hotel description or star rating; research the hotel on your own. If you don't like the hotel being offered, you can usually upgrade. 3. Ask about the flight's times, connections, airline, and change and cancellation policies. 4. Extra nights are often available at a ridiculously low rate.
Sites where you can find good package deals include our own BudgetTravel.com, as well as LastMinute.com, LastMinuteTravel.com, and Travelzoo.com (the listings are advertisements but are often good deals nonetheless). If all you want to do is visit family, and all you need is airfare, your best bets are the meta search engines Kayak.com and SideStep.com.
Check their website to read terrific tips from industry insiders on buying a last-minute package, regardless of your destination.
Examples of deals
The folks at LastMinute.com offer many worthwhile deals. Check their website for details.
And associate editor Laura MacNeil rounded up great deals from the packagers whose deals we regularly feature in the magazine's 40 Best Deals and in our online Real Deals. Click here for details!