Expensive airfare and rising fuel prices: Here’s how to save money while traveling during the holidays

It’s been a huge year for travel. This summer has proven to be the busiest ever for U.S. airports, with the TSA screening a record 227.5 million passengers between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July weekend. And while there were some hiccups – e.g. Operational challenges faced by United in Late June – There is hope that the holiday season will go much smoother for travelers than it used to be Christmas nightmares Southwest Airlines passengers’ hair in 2022.

Between the always high airfare prices for vacations, the exorbitant cost of hotel rooms, and One loyalty program discount After another, being strategic about booking your vacation travel for 2023 is crucial to avoiding frustration and overspending.

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If you haven’t booked flights or hotels yet, now is a good time to get serious about it Book holiday trips And find ways to save money in the process.

Choose your travel dates wisely

You can save a pretty penny by adjusting your travel dates a little. Certain days during the holidays will see higher demand and therefore come with higher prices.

In both 2021 and 2022, the busiest travel day of the year, based on the volume of TSA checkpoints, was the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

Will a day’s early arrival or late departure save you money?

Let’s say I’m flying from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) to New York for Thanksgiving. Departing on the Wednesday before the holiday and returning the following Sunday, the cheapest round trip is $418 on Delta Air Lines.

Google Trips

If I could wait until Monday to return, look how much the price would drop: It’s $198 roundtrip — a savings of 52%.

Google Trips

in the “Christmas in July” report, the Booking app Hopper had the following suggestions:


  • Leave on the Monday before the holiday to get the cheapest airfare.
  • You can return any day of the week during the week after Thanksgiving.


  • The most expensive days this year are likely to be the Thursday and Friday (December 21-22) before the holiday (which falls on a Monday).
  • To save, plan to leave on Wednesday, December 20, or before/after peak days.

Of course, the exact prices will also depend on where you’re going and when you’re booking.

However, Hooper says the best time to book holiday trips (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s) would be late September or early October.

Google Flights reflects that saying you’ll typically find the best deals for a trip in mid-December or a later trip around early October — which will come quickly.

Learn how to search for a cheap flight ticket

One of the best tips for finding well-priced vacation flights is simply knowing how to look for them.

TPG has the full Guide to finding cheap flight tickets I won’t repeat all the advice here. However, I will remind you of my favorite TPG tool: Google Trips. Google Flights has a search option that doesn’t require you to enter your destination. This tool is golden if your vacation travel plans are still up in the air or you just want to weigh your options.

Google Trips

You can enter the origin city and your preferred travel dates, then leave the destination blank. You will see the prices it finds to points near and far.

Or, if you already know exactly where you want to go to trim the tree, enter your origin and destination and use Google Flights to quickly search for the cheapest travel date. During the holidays, having a day or two of flexibility can cause the price to swing more than $100 in either direction.

Google Flights now also has a tool that recommends when you should book a flight based on historical data trends for your specific route and itinerary.

For example, for my DFW to New York Thanksgiving flight example, Google Flights recommends that I book sometime between now and November 8 (although it looks like the latter date will be very close) to get the lowest price for this flight.

Google Trips

Additionally, check out price alert tools like Hopper or Skyscanner.

Book flights directly with the airline This is usually the best solution, but using these tools to find deals before booking directly with the airline can make searching for the best price much easier.

Go where others are not

Flying to sunny Cancun or Puerto Rico During Thanksgiving or the winter holiday season it may be attractive, but it may cost you $400-$600 per person. However, you can save hundreds of dollars per person by traveling elsewhere.

San Juan Puerto Rico Beach in Condado. Clint Henderson/The Points Man

Tropical vacations usually cost a fortune during the holidays. Miami It can be a good alternative if you are hoping for a warmer destination New Orleans It is an underrated fall spot for anyone who wants to explore the famous city without the intense Louisiana summer heat.

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No matter where you’re staying, you can find good deals by heading to off-season areas and setting your sights away from where most people are headed. Instead of a beach vacation in the Caribbean or Mexico, try an early-season ski week around Thanksgiving or explore the archipelago National Park. Here are some of our Favorite national parks during the winter months.

Be a professional at points

Another way to save money while booking holiday trips is of course to use points.

However, you will need to be careful to avoid being tampered with. Many airline and hotel loyalty programs now use dynamic pricing for premium flights and stays. This often means that when the cash rate rises (as it does around the holidays), the point rate can be very high as well.

One way to combat this is to move your data Chasing, Capital One, City, And AMEX points For airline alliance partners with more predictable award pricing structures.

Would you like to visit Snowy? Aspen? You can book a flight on United Airlines, for example, using Avianca Life Miles. Assuming there’s award room, that’ll cost you 10,000 Lifetime miles each way, versus often over $300 per person each way if you’re paying cash.

Aspen, Colorado. Christine Braga/Getty Images

Getting creative and considering the full range of transfer partners you can take advantage of with your rewards credit card can help you put your points and miles to great use…even on holidays in some cases.

Shipped or packed?

If you check your luggage, you can pay $30 to $50 for a standard checked bag on a domestic flight. Ideally, you’ll have a way to get around these fees thanks Elite status Or the The correct credit card In your wallet. If you don’t, the cost adds up. If your bag is overweight with gifts or oversized, it adds up faster.

But you may be able to ship that luggage via a simple extra-large UPS shipping box (up to 50 pounds) for about $26. If you don’t want to shop yourself, you can use the site The lug is lower To price and purchase shipping for your belongings; Services range from self-delivery to doorstep pickup and delivery.

Shipping won’t always be cheaper, but even if it isn’t, it will usually be easier than carrying extra items and waiting at baggage claim. Additionally, it can remove some travelers’ stress encountered in recent years With luggage.

Just be sure to allow some temporary delivery time on holidays.

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Don’t starve

There are far fewer closed storefronts along airport concourses than during the height of the pandemic (And even after, Amid the ongoing staff shortage.

However, the financial burden of an airport meal — which can easily cost a family $50 or more — can be significant.

Check to see if your airline or credit card status gives you access to lounges or discounts, whether they are Entry priority Dining credit or free access to an airline lounge such as the Amex Centurion Lounge. Just be sure to check the entry rules beforehand as many lounge operators do this Tightening entry and guest requirements To stop overcrowding since last year.

Dine at Landry’s in Terminal C in Houston for free. Hull Summer/The Man with the Points

For example, say you have The Platinum Card® from American Express And you want to make your family in one of Amex Centurion lounges nationwide. Unless you’ve spent $75,000 on your card this year or last year, bringing a guest 18 or older will cost you $50; a Child from 2 to 17 years old is $30.

Save on gas

Of course, flying is not the only way to travel, many travelers drive their cars to see family during the holidays. Although fuel prices are certainly lower than the worst points of 2022, the costs of a long road trip can add up to multiple fill-ups and fees.

AAA reports currently The average price of a gallon of unleaded gas is about $3.84. That’s up slightly from $3.70 one year ago, though well below the all-time national record average of $5.01 per gallon.

Andrew Harrier/Getty Images

you can use GasBuddy To find the cheapest gas near you (and maybe save up to 40 cents per gallon when you use a prepaid gas card). Many gas station chains (and a few grocery stores like Kroger and Harris Teeter) have loyalty programs that help you save up to a dollar per gallon at the pump. we’ve got More ways to save gas here.


Looking back over the past couple of years, it seems like travel might be easier than last year.

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As Southwest Airlines’ 2022 Christmas crash and 2021 Omicron surge showed us, book with A card that provides trip insurance — Or buy your own – It can provide peace.

And if this summer’s record crowds at airports are any indication, you’ll also want to make sure you travel Check in advance, Global entry wow Clear Plus Memberships are up.

It’s possible to travel for the holidays more cheaply if you’re strategic about when you travel, where you travel, and the types of rewards you use to help you get there.

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