All I want for Christmas is a travel deal! With the cost of travel skyrocketing around the holidays, it can be difficult to make it home for Christmas without knowing secrets to saving money -- and of course, without access to Santa's reindeer and sleigh. Don't worry, we won't let the travel Grinch get the best of you!
Forbes shared results from a 2018 CheapOair study, compiled of over 900 million airfares in 8,000 markets. They discovered that for winter travel, the most optimal time to purchase tickets was 62 days prior to intended departure date. Of course, this doesn't fully account for the holidays, but it does help create structure around when you should start comparing prices. Booking too far in advance could actually cost more, as airlines haven't yet assessed the flight's demand; they might lower the price accordingly.
As for the days themselves, except during holiday weeks, Tuesday and Wednesday are the cheapest days to travel, with Saturday following close behind. You may be able to save yourself hundreds of dollars by choosing to fly on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or the day following, and the same goes for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
You could avoid the high prices altogether by purchasing plane tickets with airlines miles instead of dollars. Most airlines offer a promotional package for new customers: For spending a certain amount of money on a particular credit card in the first few months, new customers are gifted anywhere from 20,000 to 60,000 miles. This can provide great flexibility if you have a tight work schedule and are unable to travel on the off days. To compare the different mileage programs, check out U.S. News' travel section for a comprehensive breakdown of options based on the criteria that best suit your needs.
When it comes to location, you can save hundreds of dollars by flying to one of the bigger cities close to your destination instead of flying somewhere smaller and more rural. Travel discount sites such as Orbitz, Expedia and Google Flights show that because most people fly to major cities for work, more often than not, flying into a smaller airport will really cost you.
Of course, you can ditch the traditional home-for-the-holidays routine and convince your friends and family to plan an adventure instead. PlanetWare created a list of their top 10 recommendations for slightly off-the-beaten-path trips that, as long as you travel before the days leading up to New Year's Eve, will be significantly cheaper than at any other time of year. Their list includes:
-- Las Vegas, Nevada: Walk the strip, rent a car and tour the nearby Grand Canyon.
-- Belize, Central America: Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef.
-- Orlando, Florida: Visit Disney World.
-- Oaxaca, Mexico: Explore the Monte Alban ancient ruins.
-- Montego Bay, Jamaica: Relax on the beaches.
Perhaps you want to avoid the holiday travel rush altogether. Travel and Leisure Magazine says that, if you're willing to wait until several weeks after New Year's, essentially all of winter following Jan. 1 is incredibly discounted. You can ship your family and loved ones gifts or send them electronic presents to keep the spirit of togetherness alive while building anticipation for your upcoming rendezvous. You can also stay connected through apps such as Skype and FaceTime.
And ultimately, no matter how much dedication you pour into finding those travel sales and last-minute deals, you might have to accept that travel prices will be higher during this time of year. Instead of purchasing gifts, you could communicate to your family that this year, their present is your trip home to spend time with them. If you've ever spent a holiday away from home and regretted missing out on the memories, let that fuel your fire to click "purchase" on that expensive fare that, in the big scheme of things, will not seem that expensive in light of the priceless memories you'll get to make spending time with the people you love. After all, the best present you can give your loved ones is your presence.