This Year, Your Ticket Home Doesn't Need to Stress You Out
Let's Save Big on Holiday Travel This Year
by Michelle Clardie
October 18, 2019 .3 min read
You know it, and we know it: the magic of the holiday season is only possible because women take charge of making the magic happen!
We typically handle all the cooking, gift-buying, wrapping, decorating, hosting, and travel arrangements (as well as managing the finances behind every one of those items!). And sure, we’re usually happy to do it. But that doesn’t mean it comes cheaply or easily.
So to make your holidays just a little easier and more affordable, we're providing 5 smart ways to save big money on holiday travel.
1. Time Your Airfare Purchases
Timing is everything when it comes to getting good deals on holiday travel. You may already know that booking your flights 12-14 weeks before the holidays is much less expensive than purchasing within 6 weeks of the holidays. In fact, according to Skyscanner data, booking 12-14 weeks out saves you around 6-7%, and booking 7-11 weeks out saves 3%, compared to last-minute bookings.
But that’s not the only trick to timing your airfare purchase. Interestingly, shopping for tickets at around 3:00 pm Eastern time on Tuesdays generally gets you the best deals. This is because airlines publish their weekly reports on Tuesday mornings, and by Tuesday afternoon, airlines are competing against each other on price.
Smart price alert systems can also help you time your purchase by notifying you when rates change.
2. Compare Airlines and Routes
Don’t waste your valuable time checking prices on individual airline websites. With Google’s free-to-use Google Flights tool, you can quickly compare all airlines and routes. Even better, you can also compare multiple airports and multiple travel dates.
You can even filter flights by the number of stops, cost, and the total cost including checked bag fees. If you’re booking a long flight, consider taking a route with a stop to save major money. The inconvenience of the stop might be well-worth the savings. I once saved almost 50% on my flight from Chicago to Germany by accepting a 50-minute stop in Iceland. So worth it!
And yes, Google Flights does have a price alert system. Once you enter your locations and travel dates, you’ll be able to turn on the Track Prices feature to stay notified.
3. Time Your Travel Dates
Christmas Day is the date most holiday travelers are planning around. And with it falling in the middle of the week, most travelers are looking to fly in the weekend before and leave the weekend after. So naturally, flights on those dates are the most expensive.
Consider traveling on Christmas Eve for the best savings. As of this week, flying in on Christmas Eve and out on New Year’s Eve can save over $120 per ticket on cross country flights compared to flying in on the Sunday before and out on the Sunday after.
Always check the Google Flights Date Grid to compare rates by date.
4. Consider Other Destinations
Cities with smaller airports are generally more expensive to travel to and from because there are fewer flights available. If you can fly into a larger city within a reasonable driving distance, you may be able to save more than enough money to the cost of taking a car or train to your final destination.
Or consider an alternate destination completely! Instead of having everyone fly to one family member's home, have everyone meet in a city with lower-cost airfare. Denver, for example, is a major airline hub, so flights are generally less expensive than many other airports. And from there, it's a quick drive to a snowy mountain holiday wonderland, straight out of a Hallmark holiday movie! Or you could trade the snow for a sunny holiday in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which is currently the most affordable domestic airport.
5. Give the Gift of Quality Family Time
If you’re struggling with the overall cost of the holidays, consider nixing the gift-swapping with your adult family members in favor of spending money on traveling to be together. It's still fun to buy gifts for the kids, of course. But at a certain age, gifts lose their importance for many of us. Making a family decision to pull back on the gift-giving so you can all afford to travel and be together over the holidays is an easy money-saver.
With all the money you’re going to save on your holiday travel expenses, you’ll be able to afford the things that matter most during this special time of year! Special gifts for special people, ingredients for your traditional holiday meals (don’t forget the cookies!), keepsake holiday decorations, and maybe a well-deserved spa day for yourself!
Michelle Clardie teaches #HappyMoneyManagement to women who want to make saving and investing more fun. She recently traded in her corporate career to move abroad and blog full-time. Check her out at savingsandsangria.com.