Holiday travel tips: Expert insights to save time and money when booking Thanksgiving, Christmas flights, and hotels

With just under a month into Thanksgiving and just under 60 days until Christmas, “This is officially the season for holiday travel planning.

Whether consumers are booking flights and hotels or need insight to save time and relieve stress at the airport, travel experts have shared their top tips and data with Good Morning America to help steer them toward the path of least resistance.

Top tips before booking your vacation trip

While some may not want to hear it, Scott Keys, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights and author of Take More Vacations, told GMA that “the best time to book vacation trips was in June.”

“I know that’s a small relief now, but think of it as a reminder for next year,” he continued, adding that “if you’re hoping to travel this next summer – you’re actually starting to see some really cheap flights on those off-season flights now.” .

Last minute tips for booking a flight for Thanksgiving

The second best time to book if you miss out on deals out of season is now, Keys said, because flights will definitely get more expensive the longer people wait.

“You want to try to book it sooner rather than later because prices tend to move in one direction in the last few weeks and haven’t gone down,” he said.

Keys suggests following the 21-day rule, which means delaying your booking based on your departure date to align with the airline’s “advanced purchase requirements” found in the fine print of the fare terms and conditions.

“This usually states that this fare is only available if you book it at least 21 days in advance of travel,” Keyes said. “On day 20, that fare is no longer available, it has expired, at which point the new cheaper fare will be $100 or $200 higher.”

“21 days before travel is kind of a deadline to book that flight,” he continued, adding that “if you’re hoping to travel the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, which will be November 23, you’ll want to try to get that flight booked by November 2 on At the latest. “

After that, the price will continue to rise gradually.

More: What airlines owe customers if flights are canceled or delayed

Best flight departure time to book and why

“The most important thing to remember is that the first flight of the day has an on-time performance rating that is 25% higher than the last flights of the day,” Keys said. “Get on those morning flights because they’re most likely to get you there on time.”

In addition to better weather and fewer thunderstorms in the morning, Keys explained that booking your first flight helps mitigate the risk of delays or cancellations due to any issues with a flying plane, as your plane will be parked overnight and ready at the gate.

Alternative Destinations for Thanksgiving Travel Deals

“Thanksgiving is the best week of the whole year for international travel,” Keys said, citing a real-time example that traveling from New York City to Omaha would cost a person $118 more than New York City to Portugal over the following week. Thanksgiving.

In addition, he said, it’s a slower season than summer, with fewer crowds and lower prices, and some areas across Europe will start seasonal holiday markets.

Tips to save time and money and relieve stress at the airport during the holidays

Keyes offered two of his top ideas to “help keep you calm at the airport” during the chaotic holiday season.

“If you can avoid it,” he said, “try not to open the bag.” “It will really help improve your chances in many situations.”

“You don’t have to take the extra time to queue when you get to the airport and risk if the queues are too long or potentially missing. You don’t stand in a circle wondering if your bag will arrive,” he said. “If something happens to your flight, like a connection loss or cancellation, it’s much easier to re-accommodation if the airline doesn’t have to go find your bag in the belly of the plane and divert it to another plane.”

SEE ALSO: The price of turkey has gone up this year, but here’s how to save on the big holiday dinner

Another way to reduce stress is to register with TSA Precheck or Global Entry, which Keys said is especially easy “if you have a credit card that will cover the cost of those applications.”

“This will allow you to go through a much shorter safety line, so you won’t have to take your shoes off – if you skip the bag check and do the TSA check beforehand, when you go through the airport doors to the time you spend at the gate, it’s often about five minutes.”

But even if the TSA pre-screening line seems longer than the standard security checkpoint, Keyes advised to stay in your lane.

“Even if the line is longer, it usually moves a little faster, not only because you don’t have to take your shoes or laptop out of your bag, but also because the TSA line tends to be more experienced travelers who know what they’re doing.” “Nothing against less experienced travelers, but they will take more time.”

If you don’t have a TSA pre-screening, Keyes recommended checking if the airport offers an option to “allow people to schedule an appointment to show up at TSA,” where you basically sign in, schedule it the day before and show up on your block.

“The downside risk of a significant delay is much lower if you are in one of those scheduled slots,” he said.

Best tip for easy rebooking after flight delays or cancellations

“If your flight is canceled or if you miss calling — especially if the weather is bad — a lot of people will call, so don’t stand in line at the airport to talk to the gate agent,” Keys said. . “You also want to make sure you’re calling the airline. But specifically, call the airline’s international number.”

Keys said this practical hack would bypass the main US hotline, which most people would also call.

He said: “If you call the American Airlines number in the UK or the United number in Canada, you are more likely to reach an agent directly because those have much fewer callers and those agents located internationally can help you with your case and rebook you just like the agents in United State “.

Hotel rates and last minute deals Vacation Destination

The team of experts behind travel app Hopper found that average nightly hotel rates for Thanksgiving and Christmas are up 14% from last year.

For hotel stays, Hopper experts advise ending any Thanksgiving bookings by the first week of November, and for Christmas by the first week of December.

As for travelers who can be flexible with timing and locations, Huber said consumers can “save up to 25% by booking last-minute vacation holidays for hotels, particularly in major cities.”

Hotels are less [their] “Price for stock left in the month prior to the check-in date so you can often find good deals in the days leading up to the holiday,” a Hopper representative said in a statement. However, keep in mind that you will need to be flexible with hotel properties and amenities to get a good last minute deal.”

Best days to check-in at the holiday hotel

For anyone planning to stay at their destination for a few days, Huber advised travelers to arrive on the Monday or Tuesday before Thanksgiving, versus staying after the holiday.

The travel service app also found that prices for Black Friday check-ins are higher than Thanksgiving itself, with some people looking for an extra $50 for a weekend after Turkey.

For Christmas, Hopper found that check-in for the holiday itself can be 11% lower than check-in on Christmas Eve.

When it comes to New Year’s Eve, they have indicated that “hotel rates will be low until December 27th” but then prices will go up by about $30 per night.

In general, according to Hopper, prices will be higher in the week between Christmas and New Years than in the previous week.

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