Wanna save big, stay sane and enjoy your holiday travel this year? Whether you're trekking across the state to partake of Grandma's Christmas goose or leaving everything behind and heading for warmer climes, Fly.com's Warren Chang's top-10 holiday travel tips can help you keep it all together.
1. Be a conscious consumer
If the airline puts you on a different flight and you arrive at your destination between one to two hours after your originally scheduled arrival time (one to four hours for international destinations), the airline is required to pay you an amount equal to the one-way fare to your destination that day, up to $400 maximum and $800 for international travel.
If the airline does not make alternative arrangements for you, it is required to compensate you double the amount of the one-way fare to your destination.
2. Give yourself a gift
Business-class fares are more affordable this winter. Prices are currently only about double that of an economy ticket, rather than the usual three to four times the economy rate. European destinations are the best targets for this tip.
3. Try to travel on holidays
If you can, travel on actual holidays instead of a day before or after. You'll find less-crowded airports and score cheaper fares. Travelers can expect to pay half or even less to travel on Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year's Day. (For example, flights from NYC to Miami are $450-plus leaving the day before Thanksgiving and returning on Sunday or Monday. Traveling on Thanksgiving and returning on Tuesday will only cost you $199.) If you’re not up for traveling on holidays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays are the cheapest days of the week to travel.
4. Nonstop means nonhassle
Winter weather and crowded airports make for potential disasters when it comes to catching connecting flights. Avoid the stress and hassle by springing for nonstop flights. Or at least avoid layovers in cities known for inclement weather (Denver, Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis). If you must take a flight with a stop, opt for warmer climates like Dallas, Miami or Los Angeles.
5. Wrap the right way … later
Don’t bring wrapped presents to the airport. Transportation Security Administration agents might end up opening your gifts instead of leaving them for your intended loved ones. Save time and money by wrapping gifts once you arrive at your final destination.
6. Involve the in-laws
Pack less and do laundry at the homes of family members. Less carry-on luggage can save travelers up to $50 in baggage fees while avoiding the hassle of hauling around extra luggage. (Searches on Fly.com display actual baggage fees.)
7. Prepare your precious carry-ons
If you’re traveling with such oversized items as skis, snowboards or golf clubs, make sure to check airline requirements and fees ahead of time to avoid surprise expenses.
8. Check nearby airports
Often larger airports, because of heavy flow of passengers/aircraft, have the most delays and fewest seats available. Search for airfares in smaller nearby airports to get the best deals. If you're heading to Washington, D.C., for example, consider flying into Washington National or Baltimore to save at least $30 on the cost of flights compared to Dulles.
8. Get to Grandma’s early
There are often fewer delays on early morning flights because they are usually the first scheduled flights of the day. The plane is often waiting for several hours and ready to go!
9. Use social media to save
Sites such as Fly.com, Orbitz and individual airlines often offer real-time Twitter fare specials and Facebook alerts for flights around the world.
And, of course, remember your manner. Be polite to airline employees, especially when things go wrong. Niceness goes a long way when you experience problems.