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November and December are almost upon us and that means the frantic search for holiday travel options has begun in earnest. You’ll fly Tuesday and leave on Friday for Thanksgiving to avoid all of the people and possible delays. Christmas Eve sounds like a great travel day because it means saving at least a hundred bucks. In the back of your mind though is all that can go wrong with that plan. What happens if your alarm doesn’t go off and you miss your flight at 5 am because that was the least expensive one? You’ll be stuck in the airport for the whole holiday subsisting on Corn Nuts, Gatorade and naps using your laptop bag as a pillow and a concrete floor as your bed as crying babies lull you to sleep.
However, maybe you’re a lucky person that lives within a reasonable driving distance of family. You know the traffic patterns of your city and can avoid the city’s exodus to go visit family and return without any traffic related delays. Maybe you just plan to visit family in January after all the craziness subsides because you and your family are not Christians and Christmas means as much to you as Columbus Day.
That means that as other gird themselves for the perils of holiday travel and pray every night for good weather and well-maintained aircraft so that their flight at 9 pm Wednesday night before Thanksgiving goes off without a hitch and that the 10 pm red-eye Sunday night gets them home in time to rush to work and that 3 hours of sleep on a plane will be enough to keep them alert to manage the office, you’ll wait patiently for all these hectic folks to get back home and then you’ll travel. Why? Because of all of the nice deals you can find. Let me show you.
Expedia, Travelocity and Priceline all have special parts of their sites devoted to deals. Some are for last minute trips and others are for planning ahead. On the last minute front, I found a trip from Seattle leaving on November 5th to Las Vegas and returning on November 9th for only $157. If you wait and check the deals in December, you may find something even better. On the Travelocity site, looking for discount airfare by city, I found a flight from Philadelphia to Austin, TX leaving on Wednesday November 30th and returning on that Saturday, December 3rd for $250.
Checking out American Airlines, you can search for deals from your local airport. For example, I found a direct flight from Los Angeles to London Heathrow the Tuesday after Thanksgiving with a direct flight returning just under two weeks later for $331 each way and a total of $860. (Yes, that is $200 in taxes and fees. Yikes.) For something more affordable, there’s a flight to San Francisco leaving at 9 am on Saturday, December 3rd and returning Tuesday, December 6th at 7 pm for a total of $110, or most likely less than the cost of driving back and forth. United has special deals, but are not as search friendly. Delta has a page for deals and the intriguing one is the New York JFK to Dublin, Ireland for $540 with taxes and fees. Travel starts January 5th and if you can out wait the holidays it would be a cheap way to get some good Guinness. (I found a flight leaving 9:40 pm on January 10th and returning 11:20 am on January 19th for $589.30 including taxes and fees. The search options are not the best though for finding your ideal fare with flexible dates.) No matter what your favorite airline, it won’t hurt to check their specials just to see if anything strikes your fancy.
If you don’t mind the lack of assigned seats and being a number (I am not a number, I am a free man!) then you probably find the lower fares of Southwest to be palatable. So, the tool for you to use is the low fare calendar. Flying from Chicago Midway to Denver in December, there are 12 days between the 1st and the 17th where fares start at $61 or $72 each way. In comparison, their advertised holiday sale rates, and click ‘n save specials start at $59 each way. Just checking the calendar can let you find a deal better suited to your travel schedule and possibly to hit the slopes early in the season.
Most airlines offer email specials that they’ll send out early in the week for travel that weekend. If you don’t have any preference for where you want to go and are open on the weekends, you can wait and see what deals pop up in your open holiday weekends.
Hopefully you have a great time planned with your family in the next few months. If you don’t have to worry about your travel plans when you go to see them, take advantage of those who do and fly the less crowded skies between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Your wallet will thank you for it.