It’s the most wonderful, er … expensive, time of the year. But you can take the sting out of holiday travel with these money-saving tips:
1. Add a connection. Sure, you may add some complexity to your holiday air travel, but planning a route that includes at least one stop could save you up to $100 round-trip. Just be sure to factor in plenty of time to make connections – especially in cold-weather destinations.
2. Win on the Web. When booking through major airline websites, be aware that many allow passengers to cancel and rebook tickets purchased within 24 hours without penalty. So, after you book, be sure to check fares the next morning to see whether a better fare has been made available.
3. Pay it down. Check to see if your frequent flyer miles can be used to reduce the price of your ticket (For example, Delta lets you knock $100 off the flight with 10,000 miles).
4. Tap social media. Airline websites aren’t the only places to find deals. Stay abreast of sales through social media. Most airlines now have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, and some offer exclusive deals on these sites.
5. Book your ride now. To get the best rates and widest availability, book your rental car around the same time you book your airline ticket – especially if you need a high-occupancy SUV for the snow or a flashy convertible for the beach. Most rental companies let you reserve your car even without a credit card to secure the rate, meaning there’s really no downside to booking in advance.
6. Consider hotel alternatives. Stay in a private home or condo and enjoy all the comforts of home. Peer-to-peer rental companies such as Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO), HomeAway and AirBnB can save you a bundle, as well as provide a unique travel experience. Even better: There’s no penalty for last-minute planners, assuming you can find availability.
7. Ship your luggage. To avoid exorbitant airline luggage fees, do some research in advance and see if it might be cheaper to ship your presents and baggage by UPS or FedEx ground services.
8. Play the fare game. Use a site such as Yapta.com to track your specific flight’s price after you purchase – most airlines and online travel agencies will provide a rebate if your flight’s price drops below what you paid. Yapta will even do the math and let you know when your refund outweighs those pesky ticket-change fees (and tell you how to cash in).
9. Shop Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Many airlines announce sales on Tuesday mornings, with competitors scrambling to match those fares throughout the day. This makes Tuesdays and Wednesdays great days to snag a deal.
10. Zig when everyone else is zagging. Avoid Wednesday to Sunday for Thanksgiving, and Thursday to Sunday for both Christmas and New Year’s. Fly on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day, and you’ll avoid holiday surcharges.
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