By Carole Masters
Airline travel during the holidays can be challenging. There are strategies for finding the best ticket prices and it takes planning to have the journey go smoothly. When purchasing tickets consider the following tips:
- The earlier you book your flights, the better. If you can be flexible with your travel dates you can find deals on the less busy days before or after the holiday. For this Thanksgiving, according to the website CheapAir.com, the biggest savings are leaving the Sunday or Monday before and returning the Friday and Saturday afterwards. Surprisingly, traveling on Thanksgiving Day isn’t as much a savings as in the past.
- For travel around Christmas, you’ll find the deepest discounts are departures December 19th and 20th with returns on the 27th through 30th. This year, Friday, December 22 with a return on Tuesday, the 26th will be the most expensive.
- Online search engines make it easier than ever to comparatively shop for flights. https://www.kiplinger.com/ lists some of the best sites starting with https://www.kayak.com/ and https://www.airfarewatchdog.com/. Kayak searches hundreds of online sources for the cheapest flights and you can view fares within three days of both your outbound and inbound dates to see if you can score a better fare. Kayak also has a price predictor that forecasts best times to book flights, as does AirfareWatchdog. For listings that include smaller airlines like Southwest, Allegiant, and others, AirfareWatchdog is best
- Include Alternate airports in your search. Besides Newark Liberty and Philadelphia International, our area has the smaller airports of Trenton-Mercer and Atlantic City. Trenton has Frontier and Allegiant airlines and Atlantic City has Southwest. These airlines offer very competitive pricing mostly to southern destinations and you’ll find cheaper parking prices as well.
- Book early departure flights to allow for possible delays or cancellations. If this happens, it’s easier to be rebooked on other flights the same day. Allow ample time for any connections.
Here are a few tips for your travel day:
Pack lightly and avoid checking bags if possible. You have a better chance to switch flights if you run into delays or cancellations.
Fully charge your smartphone before leaving home and have all your information and phone numbers for airlines, hotel, and rental cars at hand.
Give yourself extra time to get to the airport, park if necessary, and get through busy security lines.
If you want to avoid the crowds at the gate, consider buying a day pass to the airline’s airport lounge.