GET A GREAT DEAL ON FLIGHTS
A few classic frugal "rules" get thrown out the window when it comes to booking holiday flights. Ticket prices often revolve around the holiday, regardless of the day of the week, for example. Here are some of the best holiday flying tips for those looking to take a vacation or visit friends and family this winter.
Related: 12 Ways Booking Direct May Get You a Better Deal
SEARCH USING FLEXIBLE DATES
When booking a flight, search multiple dates. Tools such as Kayak feature a "flexible" function that compares prices for an itinerary within three days on both sides of selected travel dates.
TRACK FARES WITH YAPTA
Yapta tracks the cost of flights (as well as hotels and car rentals) and sends alerts when prices fall. Book when the price seems low, and continue using the service to track the price automatically. You may be eligible for a refund or voucher if the price drops.
KNOW THE BEST TIMES TO BOOK
In an analysis of 2015 booking data, the travel search site Hipmunk found that six weeks out was the best time to book a cheap flight to one of the nation's 20 biggest airports for the holidays. That means booking by Nov. 7 for Christmas -- and even earlier if you're flying to a smaller airport, according to the site's research.
If possible, schedule travel during non-peak times. For example, flying the day before Thanksgiving is more costly than leaving any other day that week, according to a CheapAir report, and the Sunday after Thanksgiving -- the busiest travel day of the year -- is even more expensive. Leaving a day before everyone else or staying a day later can make a big difference. Flying on holidays is also a surefire way to save.
HANG UP AND BOOK FLIGHTS ONLINE
Try to avoid booking flights over the phone, because airlines often charge for the help. Instead, speak to a representative (if needed) to figure out travel plans, then book online.
BOOK THROUGH AIRLINE WEBSITES
Check the airline's official website before buying a ticket. Sometimes deals from the primary source are the cheapest of all and include additional benefits, such as lower fees.
DON'T FORGET SOUTHWEST
Prices for Southwest's flights don't appear on travel aggregator sites. Checking the airline's site or app can help you compare all the available prices before booking.
SEARCH ALTERNATE AIRPORTS
Check fares from multiple airports in the region and consider flying via alternate routes. Prices may differ by airport, and airlines that have recently opened up new routes will be eager to attract travelers through lower fares.
USE TWITTER, FACEBOOK, AND OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA
Keep abreast of travel deals by following airlines on social media and subscribing to newsletters. Flash sales and exclusive discounts sometimes get sent to followers.
BOOK EACH LEG SEPARATELY
Especially when traveling overseas, it can be cheaper to book each leg of a flight separately rather than book from point A to point B with a layover.
BOOK ONE-WAY FLIGHTS
It's also no longer true that round-trip flights are the cheapest. Two one-way flights on different airlines may cost less than a round trip on the same airline, or provide the option of traveling at a more convenient time for the same price.
LOCK IN A GOOD PRICE
U.S. airlines are required to let travelers hold domestic tickets for up to 24 hours at a locked-in price while they decide whether to go for it, or buy and cancel within that window and get a refund. This allows time to confirm plans without the risk of missing out on a low fare.
BOOK INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS ON FOREIGN WEBSITES
After narrowing flight options for international travel, look at the foreign versions of airline sites (which may require users to change country and language preferences. The price may be lower, even if payment is in a different currency.
GET A PRICE-DROP REBATE
Look into the price-drop payback offer from the website CheapAir, which gives up to a $100 credit for post-purchase drops in airfare for an identical itinerary.
USE CREDIT CARD POINTS
Take note of travel-related miles or points earned through a credit card. These add up and can help underwrite the cost of a vacation.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF AIRLINE CREDIT CARD PERKS
Credit cards associated with airlines typically offer cardholders a free checked bag, priority boarding, and discounted in-flight meal purchases. The checked bag can be particularly useful during the holidays when transporting gifts.
SIGN UP FOR FREQUENT FLYER PROGRAMS
Frequent flyers should take advantage of the free rewards programs associated with their favorite airlines. Points build over time and can be used to upgrade a seat or cover the cost of a ticket.