5 Ways to Save BIG on Holiday Travel

Rockefeller center christmas tree 12-2008Rockefeller center christmas tree 12-2008
Courtesy larryjq/myBudgetTravel

I have to admit holiday travel induces more flight-or-flight than warm-and-fuzzy for me. Hordes of harried travelers, oodles of moolah for plane tickets and hotels… it can be the most stressful time of the year. But some recent research from CheapAir, Kayak, and Budget Travel shed light on five surprising ways to find bargains—and maybe even a little elbow-room—on your holiday flights!

Here's when you should buy your holiday plane tickets: For Thanksgiving, book flights about four weeks in advance to save as much as 30 percent, according to Kayak's study of booking trends. For Christmas, book a flight about three weeks in advance to save about 5 percent—but after that prices start to climb as much as 30 percent or more! Knowing the best days to fly can save you big, so...

Fly on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, or New Year's Eve. You can save BIG if you're willing to be the last one to arrive at your family's holiday dinner. We recently polled Budget Travel's Facebook and Twitter followers and found that they were overwhelmingly in favor of flying ON a holiday to save a bundle. CheapAir.com's Holiday Flights Index that tells you what days are the best to fly for bargains: Thanksgiving week, you'll save by flying on Monday, Tuesday, Thanksgiving Day, or Friday—avoid Wednesday and Sunday! For Christmas, they suggest the 22 through 25 of December for bargains. (Kayak confirms that flying on or close to Christmas can save you 50 percent.)

Prepare early for check-in. If you do have to fly on a super-busy day, take care of as many check-in tasks in advance as possible: Pay for checked bags, find off-airport parking options, and mail gifts to your destination well ahead of your flight date.

Book an early, nonstop flight. Flying early in the day minimizes your chance of being delayed by holdups at other airports. Paying a little more for a nonstop flight eliminates the chance of fresh drama en route.

Stay at a business hotel. All-suite hotels such as Homewood Suites and the Residence Inn depend largely on business travelers and are likely to offer lower rates during holiday vacation season.

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