Now that nights have turned chilly again, fall foliage has started moving south, and footballs are filling the air every weekend, it’s high time (if not past time) to make Thanksgiving travel plans. Contrary to popular belief, Thanksgiving weekend may not be the busiest time of year to travel, but it can still feel that way when you’re crawling through a traffic jam or a backed-up airport security line. Of course, if you don’t plan ahead, you won’t have to worry about busy airports, because you won’t have a flight to catch (unless you’re “lucky” enough to find a high-priced, last-minute seat). To help relieve at least some of the financial burdens of your holiday trip, here are a few tips on how to save on Thanksgiving travel:
- Make your reservations ASAP. The (fairly) early booker gets the best holiday rates — and the best seats. Unless you’re willing to risk being wedged into a middle seat between, say, a chronic snorer and someone who thinks good hygiene is highly overrated, the benefits of choosing your own seat can be huge — especially if you need to make a connecting flight.
- Fly on “off” days. Evidence and popular opinion suggest that the day before Thanksgiving is the single busiest travel day of the year. It’s certainly a high-demand day, and high demand means high prices. You’ll find lower airfares the weekend before Thanksgiving Day and the Friday, Saturday, and Tuesday following it. (In fact, some of the cheapest fares might be available on Thanksgiving Day itself.) If you have some flexibility, extend your stay — or cut it short.
- Compare prices at different airports. If you’re flying into or out of a big city, you may have multiple airport, airline, and airfare options. Skip the closest airport if you can save good money by driving an extra half-hour.
- Drive instead of flying. Gas prices often peak in the summer, when more families hit the road for vacations, and prices at the pump have been dropping recently. There’s no guarantee that they won’t increase again around Thanksgiving, but depending on your destination, the cost of driving may still end up below airfare costs. (Just be careful out there; Thanksgiving is one of the three most dangerous driving holidays.)
- Consider alternative transportation. Take the train, commuter van, or bus to the plane to save on parking fees, or take the train or bus all the way to your destination. Rail and bus fares for shorter trips tend to be more reasonable than airfare (or rental cars, for that matter), and children usually travel for less.
Thanksgiving weekend kicks off the holiday season (quite literally this year: Hanukkah begins at sunset on the day before Thanksgiving), so it’s critical to find ways to save on your Thanksgiving travel plans. To earn 5% cash back on reservations and additional rebates on travel conveniences, be sure to check out Travel Plus. And wherever you’re going for Turkey Day, travel safely (and dine well)!