How to find affordable holiday airfares
Holiday airfares are pricey again this year. The national average for Thanksgiving airfares is $400, while the average for winter holiday airfares is $475. That's about 1% to 4% higher than last year.
Airfares aren't the big story this year. I'm more concerned about the smaller number of tickets available this year, and all those extra fees that can double your travel costs if you're not careful.
Last summer, several major airlines, including Delta, American, United and Continental announced that they were going to reduce flights in the 4th quarter by anywhere from 2% to 5%. When one airline does this, no big deal. But when many do it, we could be looking at thousands of seats that won't be flying this holiday season. (The Travel Ekspert was first to mention the holiday travel connection in my tweets weeks ago).
So, with fewer seats, can you still get an affordable ticket. The answer is yes, if you do the following:
- If you see a fare you like, don't wait - grab it.
- Fly on Mondays or Tuesdays around the holiday, or on the holiday itself, when fares are lowest.
- Fly before 7 a.m. or after 8 p.m., also when fares are relatively cheap.
- Name your own price if you can be flexible.
Here are the dates when fares are currently the cheapest:
November 19, 20, 21, 24, 25, 29 and 30.
December 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 24, 25, 27 and 31.
Keep in mind, the dates are always changing as more seats get snapped up. For the latest Best Days To Fly Calendar, visit http://pcln.com/bestdays.
Now what about those extra fees. Fees can range from up to $150 to change a ticket to $49 for a bag over 50 pounds and up to $38 for a checked bag. What to do:
- Before booking, triple check to make sure the dates, airports, airlines and passenger names are all correct. Have passenger IDs in front of you when you're booking, if possible.
- Measure and weigh all bags. Seriously consider if you can get by with just one carry-on and nothing else.
- Send packages on ahead. It's cheaper than paying the extra baggage fees.
Above all, leave plenty of extra time when heading to the airport. Flights are going to be packed, which means long security lines. And, in addition to your luggage, be sure to pack a sense of humor. It will go a long way to making your trip a pleasant one.
Happy Holidays from The Travel Ekspert!