How to find best deals on holiday airfare

The holidays are coming up and if you want to go somewhere, book yesterday. OK, that’s not necessarily true for all deals for all holidays — but if you haven’t made plans for Thanksgiving yet, get going. But first, let’s try to make all holiday travel at least a little cheaper, and always start by comparing airfares so you can be certain which airline has the best deal. Trust me, it varies, according to USA TODAY.

1. Cheaper Halloween: Fly cheaper days

This holiday is the easy one because fares are cheap in October and can be made even cheaper. Plus, Oct. 31 falls on a Monday this year, so arranging a cheap itinerary is relatively easy. Just remember the cheapest days to fly are usually Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, and days to avoid are Friday and Sunday. Now let’s put together expensive days vs. cheap days itineraries.

We’ll start in Chicago and fly to a trio of cities that are great Halloween destinations: Salem, Mass., home to the infamous Witch Trials (fly into nearby Boston); New Orleans, with all those haunted mansion and graveyard tours; and Orlando, where every theme park puts on a scary show. Now let’s compare itineraries for Friday, Oct. 28 to Sunday, Oct. 30 vs. Saturday, Oct. 29 to Tuesday, Nov. 1 (fares were found late last week and can change).

To Boston (Salem):

Friday-Sunday: $152
Saturday-Tuesday: $107
To New Orleans:

Friday-Sunday: $374
Saturday-Tuesday: $300
To Orlando:

Friday-Sunday: $280
Saturday-Tuesday: $149
Bottom line: Fly the cheaper days and reap significant savings.

2. Cheaper Thanksgiving: Fly cheaper destinations

You can fly cheaper days at Thanksgiving, too. The holiday itself (Nov. 24) is usually the cheapest day to fly. Avoiding flights on the Wednesday and Sunday surrounding the holiday is another way to cut costs. One more thought: If you have no family obligations, fly to Europe; it’s cheap and could actually save you money over flying domestic.

Example: Two round-trip airfares found late last week for travel Nov. 23-Nov. 27, the most expensive days to fly domestic during Thanksgiving.

New York to London: $595
New York to Portland, Ore: $644
Bottom line: If you want to go somewhere extra-special like Europe, Thanksgiving is a great time to travel.

3. Cheaper Christmas and New Year’s: Fly cheaper routes

Non-stops are almost always superior to connecting flights, with one important exception: Non-stops often cost more. Here’s a case in point: Detroit to Los Angeles, Dec. 22 to Jan. 2:

Non-stop: $595
One-stop: $494
Bottom line: Taking the long way ‘round can sometimes save $100 per person — or more.


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