How to find cheap flights for Christmas trips

The holiday season is very close to us. Flights around the Christmas holidays are usually some of the most expensive you’ll see all year. Of course, 2020 was an exception to this rule, with many staying put due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

But now travel is bouncing back, despite the development of the Omicron variant; millions of people have been vaccinated against Covid-19 and families and friends are ready to reunite.

Much like Thanksgiving, signs point to a busy travel period during the December holidays, which means flights will be full – and expensive.

If you’ve put off shopping for your late December flights – whether it’s for Christmas, New Years or anything else – now is the time to do it. But before you make any decisions, make sure you know the best tips and tricks so you don’t have to pay a small fortune to fly during the holiday period.

We’ve compiled a list of the top five ways to find cheap Christmas flights – here’s what you need to know.

Consider traveling on “holidays”

Before the pandemic, the busiest travel days of the Christmas period were December 23 and the Sunday after Christmas. This year, however, that should change slightly, given the flexible work schedules of many travelers that allow them to travel on non-traditional days.

And, often, that means cheaper flights.

Take, for example, flights from Detroit to Dallas. Economy nonstop flights from Thursday, December 23 through Sunday after Christmas, December 26 will cost you $509 round trip with the full-service US airline.

However, if you’re able to work remotely — or have more time to take off — and can fly from Thursday, Dec. 23 through Jan. 5 after the New Year, you can fly for just $391 round-trip with American.

Of course, not everyone will have the flexibility to travel on the cheapest days. Many business travelers can only be out of the office during the “traditional” Christmas travel dates. But, if you’re someone who is able to work remotely, it’s definitely worth considering extending — or shortening — your trip to potentially save several hundred dollars on flights.

Look at nearby airports

Many large metropolitan areas have multiple airports to choose from. New York has LaGuardia (LGA), Kennedy (JFK) and Newark (EWR) airports; Chicago has O’Hare (ORD) and Midway (MDW); Houston has George Bush-Intercontinental (IAH) and Hobby (HOU); And the list continues.

When looking for flights, check if your destination has a secondary airport that serves the area. Often it can be cheaper to fly to these smaller airports instead of the main airport serving a given area.

For example, if you wanted to fly from Pittsburgh to the Boston area on Christmas travel days, you could do it for $352 round trip if you were to fly to Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) with Delta Air Lines.

Or you can fly to nearby Providence (PVD) for a relatively reasonable $228 round trip on the same dates with new airline Breeze.

Flexible packages? Use Google Flights to find the cheapest options

If you’re not set on a particular destination but just know you want to get away for the holidays, you should use Explore function of Google Flights. The free service lets you see which destination has the cheapest airfare.

The Explore function allows you to search with specific dates or with flexible dates within a given month. You can choose your city of origin and let Google do the work for you. From there, you can simply click on the destination that appeals to you and fits your budget and proceed to book your flights.

Google Flights also lets you set fare alerts and will email you if and when the cost of a given ticket increases or decreases. This is especially useful if you set alerts months in advance when you’re planning to travel so you can jump on a good deal if it comes along.

Avoid low-cost carriers if you can

Many low-cost airlines have made strides in recent years to improve both their operations and the customer experience. However, while they may offer cheap fares, they have been known to charge hefty fees for any extras you might want, such as checked baggage, seat selection, carry-on baggage, and in some cases, even water.

And while “traditional” carriers like American, Delta, and United have emulated the low-cost experience with basic economy fares, you can avoid them simply by purchasing a “regular” economy ticket. But if you choose to fly with a low-cost carrier, you run a greater risk of being delayed or even stranded if weather conditions or other factors impede your flights.

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Legacy carriers typically have larger fleets and higher flight frequencies, which means you have a better chance of getting to your final destination if something goes wrong on the day of travel.

Use your points and miles

If you’re not having much luck finding flights that fit your budget, you can turn to any points or miles you have from flying or spending on a travel rewards credit card.

All major US airlines have their own loyalty programs. If you have flown with American, Delta, United, Southwest or JetBlue, for example, in the past and added your frequent flyer number to the booking, you will have been rewarded with points and miles in exchange for your business .

And if you’ve accrued enough points and miles in your accounts that have been sitting dormant throughout the pandemic, Christmas might be the best time to use them.

For example, you can use your United Airlines MileagePlus miles on a flight from New York to San Francisco during the Christmas holidays. A nonstop return flight from Monday, December 20 to Monday, December 27 will cost you 45,900 miles and only $11.20 in taxes and fees instead of $775 for the same flights.

Even if you don’t always get the most out of your miles, if you want to save money, it’s a no-brainer.

Also keep in mind that if you don’t have enough United miles in your account right now, you can also transfer them from Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program. If you have a Chase Sapphire card and earn Ultimate Rewards, those points transfer instantly to United Airlines at an individual rate.

In general, it’s easier to use points and miles to book flights at popular travel times when you book well in advance, but as the example above shows, if you have some flexibility and you’ve saved points and miles, you may even find some great deals. at this stage of the game.

Christmas and the New Year are fast approaching. If you haven’t made your travel plans yet, now is the time to do so. Although the travel period is usually expensive, it is still possible to find affordable plane tickets for this year’s vacation.

Looking for a travel credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best travel credit cards of 2021.

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