The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are among the most popular times for Americans to travel. Millions of Americans have been hitting the road, the bus and the airport despite what can be high seasonal prices for gas and airfares. Frankly, holiday travel is not the best time to score bargains – but you can do it with a little effort. Here are six great tips:
1. Be flexible. For Christmas itineraries, the most popular one is a Wednesday departure and Sunday return. See if you can score a cheaper flight by shifting your travels by a day or two. Most travel sites offer a flexible date search feature; try it out and see if it helps. For even better luck, look into flying on Christmas Day for savings of around 10%. Most people want to travel before and after a holiday, so if you can travel on the holiday itself, you’ll save. One good site to try for last minute holiday travel deals is FareCompare.com
2. Wait till after the holiday. The first week of January is known in the travel industry as a “dead week”, when far fewer people travel and the bargains abound. If you’re concerned about using up vacation days before the end of the year, check with your employer. Many employers will okay you carrying over those days in the first couple weeks of the new year.
3. Go for off-peak locations. Travel to London, for example. Virgin Vacations offers a six-night London Fling. The deal costs $679-$769 per person (without taxes and fees), depending on your departure date and city. The vacation includes round-trip airfare from several departure cities (some cities do not offer flights on December 25), six nights’ accommodations, daily breakfast, hotel taxes and service charges, and fuel surcharges. You must book by December 17. Sure, it’s a little chilly in London, but it’s still a great place to visit. Disney World is another great spot to visit in early to mid December or in January when prices are rock bottom.
4. Hit the slopes. Usually, ski vacations can be expensive during the holiday season, but bookings are down because of the struggling economy.
5. Vacation in a city; many downtown hotels see a dropoff in business clients over the holidays so there are deals available (except for New Year’s Eve).
6. There are tons of travel sites out there, but one of the easiest ones I’ve found is called Airfare Watchdog. You don’t have to enter specific dates or itineraries to find out prices. Just enter your departure city and the site will display all the deals from that city, with the valid dates for those deals.
Photo courtesy of Flickr