Thanksgiving travel: 5 ways to save on flights

iStock/Thinkstock
iStock/Thinkstock

(NEW YORK) — Flying over Thanksgiving: For many, it’s a necessary evil. So how can a traveler save money and arrive in time for turkey dinner, with Hopper showing average airfare at $325 per ticket this year?

1. Book immediately

There’s no reason to believe there will be an (even more) last-minute deal on airfare over Thanksgiving or any holiday for that matter. Demand is high and prices reflect that. As a general rule, last-minute airfare deals are hard to come by unless people are extremely flexible on their destinations — which is very rarely the case over the holidays.

According to Hopper, prices will likely go up $10 per day between now and Thanksgiving.

2. If more than one person is flying, first price out seats together and then price them separately.

Because of the ever-more complicated way airlines charge for seats (the front few rows of economy may cost more, for example), the first price you see with all seats together may not be the cheapest seats on the flight. But buyer beware: though there’s a good chance the gate agent will figure out a way to seat your family together, it’s far from guaranteed. Only you know if your travel companions will be okay if they have to sit alone.

3. Travel on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day typically offers the cheapest flights, fewer crowds and shortest lines. If possible, take a Thanksgiving morning flight that still gets to the destination in time for festivities. If not, try to fly on the Sunday or Monday before Thanksgiving and the Friday after, or not again until the Wednesday following the holiday.

“The busiest and most expensive day to depart is Wednesday, Nov. 22. You can save $54 by departing on Thanksgiving morning, or you can save $48 by departing on Monday, Nov. 20,” according to the Hopper’s holiday travel index. “The busiest and most expensive day to return is Sunday, Nov. 26. You can save $161 by returning on Wednesday, Nov. 29, instead.”

4. Large airports are good friends.

Yes, they tend to be more crowded and more of a hassle to move through. But large city airports can offer cheaper fares than smaller regional airports during the holidays. Competition is fierce at large airports and more competition equals lower prices. Added bonus: flying in and out of large airports means it’s less likely a connecting flight is necessary, something that should be avoided at all costs during peak travel periods. Every connecting flight is just one more opportunity for flights to be missed or canceled and bags mishandled.

5. Bypass the baggage fees

Save $25 – $50 each way in bag fees simply by carrying on. Or, fly Southwest, which is the only major carrier to allow two free checked bags.

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