1. The busiest — and often the priciest — days to fly or take a train are the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after. If you can schedule your trip a day or two before or after the peak days, or on Thanksgiving Day itself, you could save some serious cash and avoid crowds.
2. Keep it local. Yes, we know you’d love to visit your college friends who live on the other coast, or the favorite aunt who hasn’t seen you in years. But think now: are you the one doing the traveling every year? Is is possible for you to host them instead? Or perhaps figure out a place to meet in the middle? Also think creatively to see about ways to have a get-together within driving distance. Gas is a lot cheaper for now.
3. Check out some great sites offering incredible travel bargains. One of my favorites is TravelZoo. Current deals include Thanksgiving airfares $39 and up, car rentals from $11.50, and airfares to Europe from $212.
4. Another awesome site: Airfare Watchdog. http://www.airfarewatchdog.com Ultra simple blog where you just type in your departure city to see the list of fare specials. Also some great features like official airline route maps and tips to avoid checked baggage fees.
5. Expedia has special deals for Thanksgiving travel.
6. If you’re not visiting family, how about a cheap trip to Europe? November is the start of the low season for much of Europe, and the weather is not too bad. For example, British Airways currently offers a 6-night package with airfare, hotel and a theatre ticket from $840.
7. Take a bus. For shorter trips such as New York to DC or Boston, numerous extremely affordable alternatives have sprung up. Try Vamoose (NYC to DC only), Megabus (all of the U.S.), and BoltBus (East Coast). Or search for “Chinatown bus” and you’ll find many bus lines that offer super-cheap trips, usually from the Chinatown section of various cities.
8. Pack your own food. Remember that the cost of travel is not only the gas money or airfare, but also your meals. Besides, airport and rest stop food is often lousy, fattening and overpriced. Use an insulated lunch bag with a freezer insert and stock it up with sandwiches, fresh fruit and veggies.
9. Have trouble planning ahead? There’s always sites like LastMinute.com Sometimes you can get really good deals on unsold seats and rooms.
10. Always check airfare comparison engines such as SideStep.com or Kayak.com those sites search multiple other sites, saving you time and money.