How To Pay Less On December Air Fare
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The Holiday-Season Airfare Challenge
How can I find cheap airfares during the holiday season in December?
In general you save money on airfare by not traveling when everyone else is. So one of the biggest challenges to traveling with kids is how to travel during those popular school-break windows—the Christmas holidays, mid-winter break and spring break— without paying a premium for everything, starting with airfare.
I asked family travel bloggers who regularly fly over the holidays to give their best tips for saving on airfare in December. Here is what they have to say:
Book Your Tickets Early
The most common piece of advice was to use a tool like Google Flights to track fares to your destination and book your December tickets in the summer or early fall.
Anna Belle of Kids Travel Books says, “When I was a travel agent for flights from Orlando, prices for airline tickets would go way up after the Labor Day holiday week. It’s like that holiday happens and it gets people thinking about December.”
Beth Henry of Cloud Surfing Kids breaks it down further: ”Last year I tracked the prices for our flight,” she says. “The prices went up in the second week of October and stayed high until last minute, when they dropped significantly a week before the flights.” She adds, “This year we will go ahead and book in September to get the best fare.
Avoid Peak Travel Days
Nicole Chiodo DeBickes of Family With Latitude suggests leaving before December 15th and/or returning after January 10th. Most of us don’t have quite that much flexibility, but you can still avoid the worst peak travel days. These will vary a bit from year to year depending on what day of the week the holidays fall on and whether you are going to a popular vacation destination or to visit family in non-touristy destination.
The worst peak days are usually December 21stto 24thand January 1stto 3rd. If your kids can miss a little school or aren’t in school yet, booking a few days before and after these peak days could save you at least a little money. And the airports might be less hectic.
Leslie Neeland Harvey of Trips With Tyke says, “Fly on Christmas Day: You find teh cheapest fares and planes are empty.” Beth Henry cautions, “For the last five years or so, flights to some destinations have been reduced. So there haven’t been enough open seats for the prices on the holiday to drop.” It’s worth looking into, though.
Choose evening flights so you can have Christmas morning at home.. If you’re OK seeing your family after Christmas, look into flights on the 26thor 27th, especially to non-tourist destinations. And consider returning on New Years Eve, another relatively slow day during that week.
Tip: Thanksgiving morning can be the cheapest and easiest day to fly for the holiday weekend, too.
Avoid Peak Destinations
Your other option for finding lower holiday season airfare is to fly into or out of secondary airports: for example, Oakland instead of San Francisco. In this case you have to weigh the savings against the inconvenience of an airport that might be out of the way, have fewer alternatives if flights are canceled, and fewer amenities. They can also have smaller crowds.
For holiday getaways, think about destinations that will be fun at Christmas time but are in less demand. For example, Annalyn Belle says, “In the past, there were always ridiculous deals for packages to Amsterdam for trips between December 25 and January 1.” So it might be an alternative to more in-demand European destinations like London or Vienna.
What’s your best tip for saving on holiday fares? Share it below!
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