5 tips for saving money when booking holiday travel at the last minute


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Rising airfares may cause travelers to jeer — and not cheer — this holiday season.

In attempting to save money on holiday travel, consumers fit into 2 schools of thought: Book early, or wait to see if fares drop. Either way, if you’re looking to lower the cost of airfare, follow these 5 late-booking tips.

Check alternate airports

Most major hubs have smaller airports within a 60- to 90-minute drive. These smaller airports may provide lower fares. “Look at every one within an hour-and-a-half drive. If you’re in the Bay Area, check San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and yes, even Sacramento,” says Clem Bason, CEO of goSeek.com.

“In Los Angeles, there are 5 or 6 airports to check. If you’re in Philadelphia, there are airports in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and New Castle, Delaware. If you’re in San Diego, there’s Carlsbad. Every major city has at least 1 less well-known alternate,” Bason says.

Consider flying on the holiday

Anthony Berklich, founder of Inspired Citizen Media, a luxury travel publication, says if you are flexible when late-booking your flight, you could try flying on the holiday itself.

“Flight costs drop dramatically on holidays and are much less than booking travel on the days leading up to the actual holiday,” Berklich says. “Fly out on Thanksgiving morning instead of the Wednesday before. Your ticket cost will be exponentially less.”

If you see a good fare, grab it

Sign up for fare alerts and monitor fares for late-booking deals. “When you get a notice of a super-cheap fare close to the holiday, don’t wait, book,” says Margie Lieb Kurtz, owner and travel consultant with Great Views Travel in Parker, Colorado.

“Airlines have algorithms that will raise the fare after so many people shop those city pairs, even if the people don’t book, so they can change in a second. I had a fare go up $200 from the time I selected the city pairs to the time of payment,” Lieb Kurtz says.

Consider varying travel dates

Seats are tight during holiday travel. Even 1 or 2 days earlier or later than a desired peak date may yield lower fares.

“For Thanksgiving, try Nov. 19 or 20, or Nov. 30 and Dec. 1,” Bason says. “Follow the same pattern around Christmas and New Year’s. Check the 17th and 18th of December and the 4th and 5th of January.”

Time your purchase right

The day and time you purchase your ticket may impact your cost of holiday travel.

“Many airlines launch sales on Monday afternoons. We recommend booking air (travel) on Tuesday afternoons, when competing airlines respond by lowering their prices,” says Carrie Peters, spokeswoman for Hotwire in Seattle.