Everyone knows that booking your holiday trip at the last minute can cost you dearly. But firming up your travel plans too soon isn’t ideal either, according to data collected by Expedia.ca.
Canadians like to settle their winter holiday itinerary early. A whopping 35 per cent of us booked their Christmas travel more than three months in advance last year.
And yet, for travel between Dec. 19 and Dec. 31, flights are cheapest between 31 and 60 days in advance of the trip. Book then and you might save as much as 10 per cent, according to Expedia.
That’s good news for those who haven’t wrapped their heads around this year’s holiday shuffle yet. But don’t procrastinate too much. Booking within six days prior to your travel could add more than 20 per cent to the cost of your trip, according to Expedia.
Unfortunately, however, the same numbers hold for Thanksgiving travel, meaning it’s already too late to get the best airfare deals for that trip.
There’s probably an exception to that rule, however. A last-minute traveller might still be able to get a deal if they are prepared to travel on, say Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve.
If you don’t mind going straight from the airport to your turkey dinner, an added perk of travelling on the actual Thanksgiving or Christmas Day is that the crowds have usually dissipated and airports are quiet.
In general, Canadians should also know that airfare ticket prices also vary during the week. Booking on weekends will yield the best bargains, whereas doing so on Friday night will cost you the most, according to a recent Expedia analysis of Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) data.
According to analysts, this is because of business travelers, who tend to drive up prices on Friday because they make most of their big-ticket purchases at the end of the week.
In the past, airlines used to release reduced airfares on Tuesday, but that trend has been changing in Canada, with weekends now emerging as the best time to book.
Bundling your flight booking with your hotel or car rental reservation can also save you big, according to Expedia.
Once you’re done booking, a little bit of extra planning can help you save even more.
Figuring out how to get to and from the airport can lower your overall costs by hundreds of dollars. A car-sharing service like Uber or Lyft might be considerably cheaper than a cab, especially in the U.S. Better still, check whether you might be able to “bum a ride” with a friend or relative, writes personal finance blogger Catherine Alford. You could offer to return the favour when they’re off to the beach or a business trip.
A few more details to keep in mind about your flight: Check your airline’s luggage policies. Some have an extra charge for all checked luggage, others will let you bring at least one larger bag for free. But virtually all of them will pinch your wallet for having oversized or overweight luggage, so pack accordingly.
And while you’re at it, throw some food in there, too. Airport meal options are notoriously pricey, so bring a sandwich from home instead. Have some snacks handy, too, in case you get hungry during unexpected delays. And while many airports won’t allow you to bring drinks beyond the security check, no one will blink if you carry an empty water bottle that can be filled at a water fountain once you’ve passed the metal detector.