As far as the airlines are concerned, Thanksgiving is tomorrow. Rates for particularly popular itineraries are already on the rise. And even if price isn’t an issue, booking your preferred trip will become increasingly difficult, according to USA Today.
Thanksgiving Day is almost always the cheapest day to fly for the holiday. This should be no surprise. But how do the other travel days surrounding the holiday compare?
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after—avoid flying on these days if at all possible. They are the busiest travel dates and most expensive. The price of this itinerary has been rising since late August and is currently increasing on average by $1.50 a day, which jumps to about $2.50 a day in October. This could add up to almost $200 in additional fare per ticket.
A cheaper itinerary would be the Tuesday before and the Monday after Thanksgiving. If you don’t have to worry about school or work schedules, try flying the Saturday before to the Monday after and you may see exceptional savings.
Holly Johnson, writer for Travel Pulse, offers some tips for planning your family Spring Break vacation.
Johnson suggests considering multiple destinations. For the budget minded, consider staying some wear near the center point of your activities if staying directly at the destination will stretch your budget. Depending on travel dates, considering multiple destinations could make a big difference in cost.
Johnson notes that while it may seem impossible, try to craft a vacation the whole family will love. While many parents might view this as an act of futility, it is possible. Neutral trips that offer a lot of variation in actives might include beach trips, resorts and cruises.
In the same light, she notes it is important to let everyone’s voice be heard, even younger children. Let everyone pick at least one of the activities. This will add variety and keep the peace, while letting you all have lots of new experiences together.
Consider an all-inclusive option as they can save you a lot of money. Johnson writes, “All-inclusive resorts offer a good option for families since they include meals, drinks (and alcohol), and most entertainment options in your nightly rate. Cruises are a good option, too. They don’t always include alcohol, but they do include your cabin fare, food, and most entertainment options in your cruise fare. Some cruise lines, like MSC cruises, even let kids under 12 cruise for free.”
On planning Johnson has several thoughts. The stress of planning a trip piled on top of day-to-day concerns might encourage some to consider repeating familiar trips that seem “easy” or fit the budget—even when the trip was only “so-so”. Don’t make the mistake of re-planning a trip for these reasons. With all the online travel research tools and price-comparison tools you don’t need a travel agent to find great deals at new and interesting destinations.
As for shopping around Johnson writes, “No matter what you do, you should plan on checking at least 3-5 travel websites before you book any trip. Not only do prices vary on various travel sites, but you could earn special benefits, too. Websites like CheapCaribbean.com, Expedia.com, and Priceline.com are great for shopping Spring break packages that include both airfare and your hotel. You should always check with the vendor (airline or hotel) to see if you can get a better deal (or special perks like free breakfast) by booking directly.”
Johnson also suggests not forgetting about Air BNB or renting condos as sharing a single room with the whole family can be frustrating and subtract from your relaxation. These options can often be cheaper and offer options for eating some easier, less expensive meals at home. Why spend loads of money on a quick lunch when you can save and have a fantastic dinner?
Finally, Johnson warns of making the classic mistake of trying to pack in too many activities. Filling everyday with morning to night activities is bound to leave at least a few members of the family upset. For the daring, you might plan a “do-nothing” trip with no pre-planned activities.
The good news: Gas prices are dropping in time for Labor Day travel. If you travel by car, this should put a smile on your face but travel is expected to be up so there may be more traffic no matter where you go.
The not as good news: More people are traveling this year. Last minute flights are harder to find as the planes are full earlier. If there are more people flying and only the same number of flights as last year, it is more difficult. Some people may try to find seats and find they have to pay upcharges for whatever seats are left. If you have multiple stops, and have to pay these upcharges, it could add up to $320 or more for 2 people flying. You may try to find 2 seats together and be faced with a flight having only single middle seats down the center of each side available. Prices for flights can change day to day or even hour to hour. If you haven’t booked already, you may be out of luck.
However you travel, be patient, travel safely, and have a good time!
~ Jody Victor
There are many sites out there that will compare airfares/hotel expenses/car rentals and give you the choices. There may be some limitations, however. For instance, the latest airline to do this is Frontier Airlines which penalizes passengers who don’t book directly through them. Not only that, they will get less frequent flier miles and not be able to book their seat until check-in. Another thing is if you don’t book through them, you will be charged for your carry-on baggage.
Southwest Airlines was the first to cut out booking on third-party sites. You won’t find American Airlines’ fares and selling tickets on Orbitz.com. Expedia is making American’s fares harder to find in protest.
Jody wanted to find out more about when is the best time to purchase airline tickets and when is the best time to fly. He turned to farecompare.com to find some answers:
The Cheapest Day to Fly is Wednesday
Wednesday is one of the three cheapest days, followed by Tuesday and Saturday. The most expensive days to travel are Friday and Sunday. The cheapest time is usually the first flight out in the morning. Next best times during/after lunch and dinner time.
Best Time to Buy Airline Tickets is Tuesday 3pm EST
One study shows the best time to buy airline tickets and shop for flights (domestically) is Tuesday at 3pm EST. Most of these discounted airfare are pulled on Thursdays, so you’re probably paying too much if you wait until the weekend.
Shop One Passenger First and Save on Trips for Two or More
Airline reservations systems must sell everyone in your party the same, higher price even if there are cheaper priced seats available for any in your group. This is why you should be shopping for one passenger first for airline tickets to save on trips with two or more passengers. You can then try to shop for more than one and compare the price. The only drawback is you’ll have to make two transactions to buy 2 tickets. One trick could be to use 2 separate browsers and get them to the final purchase page and click one right after the other so if you picked your seats, you have a better chance to get them.
Understand How Airlines Price Tickets
Have you ever talked to a seatmate about how much you paid for your ticket? It most likely wasn’t the same amount. This is not unusual. You can check prices in the morning and then a few hours later find different prices. You can find out more about the airlines price their tickets here.
Don’t Forget to Check Low Cost Airlines
Some low cost airlines like Southwest don’t allow tickets to be quoted on popular comparison ticket websites. Remember to check them separately to see if they have lower prices. Low cost airlines don’t always have the cheapest ticket prices nor the best schedules so remember to check both.
Flexibility Helps Scoring Cheaper Tickets
When you can, be flexible in departure/arrival days/times.
Avoid Days When Airlines Have Peak Travel Surcharges
When seats are seats are in short supply, airlines may charge more for their seats. Normally they would do this by raising ticket prices, but in tough economic times they have resorted to very targeted departure day increases they call “peak travel surcharges”.
Don’t Shop Too Early or Too Late
Airlines don’t start releasing cheaper seats until 3-4 months before departure for domestic travel and conversely 4-5 months before international travel. Look at this When-to-Buy SM airline ticket guide, for more information.
Use Technology to Notify You When Prices Drop and Track Price Trends
You can sign up for real-time email airline ticket price drop alerts at farecompare.com that will notify you every time an airline drops prices on your favorite routes.
Save on Last Minute Emergency Flights
At the worst of emotional times you can be hit with very high prices for last minute emergency flights. Airlines may assume that procrastinating travelers have their company foot the bill. You can:
- Call for Bereavement Rates – most airlines don’t have these anymore, but the ones that do may only discount $50 or 10%
- Use Miles or Points
- Last Minute Specials – some airlines have cheaper last minute deals for off peak travel
- Shop Air+Hotel Packages – many packaging sites negotiate rates that are much less expensive than if you buy just the airfare
Jody hopes you have learned as much as he did!