It may be hard to believe, but Thanksgiving is just around the corner. This gratitude and turkey-filled holiday is one of the busiest travel weekends of the year – which can result in paying shockingly high prices to get home to your loved ones if you need to fly.
The Star reached out to Mary Zajac, public relations specialist at Expedia Canada, for her top tips on saving money on Thanksgiving travel – plus we threw in a few of our own pointers for good measure.
• Book ahead: A recent analysis of Expedia Canada’s 2016 flight data suggest booking travel between 31 to 60 days in advance of holidays can save travellers up to 10 per cent. If you need to book closer to the date because of changing plans just make sure to book at least seven days prior to your trip – anything booked six or less days before can lead to flights being more than 20 per cent pricier.
• Avoid Friday: According to the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) data, some days are better than others to book flights on – and Friday is the most expensive day to book a trip.
“Weekends are best, Fridays are worst,” explains Zajac. “In past years, Tuesdays used to be the best time to book; however, we have seen this shift to weekends. This timing is actually better for travellers, as they typically have more time [to book] on the weekend.”
• Let travel hackers work for you: Unlike Europe, Canada isn’t known for its budget airlines – but that doesn’t mean cheap flights don’t exist. If your travel dates are flexible, check out Chris Myden’s YYZ Deals news alerts for notifications of super cheap flights across Canada, as well as internationally. Myden sends out regular emails when crazy cheap sales come up – many of which are airline errors – including some during the holidays.
• Package it up: Booking a package is a great way to save, notes Zajac, whether you’re in the market for flights, hotels, car rentals, or any combination.
“Travellers can often save [nearly $600] on package deals, allowing these savings to go towards planning activities on your trip such as spa experiences and dining out,” she notes.
• Don’t check a bag: If you’ve had no luck finding less-than-exorbitant flights, a good way to save a bit is to avoid checking luggage. Air Canada charges $26.25 for the first piece of checked baggage on domestic, economy flights, while West Jet bills $25. While not substantial, this can add up on return flights and for multiple family members, so consider flying with carry-on luggage if you can.
• Be flexible: Yoga teachers and life coaches had it right – being flexible can really pay off – and booking flights is no exception. If you have some Thanksgiving travel leeway, try running a flexible date search when you’re booking flights (three or more days in each direction) to find the cheapest options.
• Be rewarded: While it can be a bit of work to manage, signing up for a variety of reward point systems can save you a good amount of money in the long run, according to Zajac. These include hotel brands, credit cards with travel and dining rewards, online travel agencies, and airlines.
“[Many] of them not only qualify you for upgrades, but you’ll be among the first to learn about special sales and deals reserved for rewards members,” adds Zajac.
• Book really, really ahead: While on the theme of holiday travel, it’s not too early to think about booking Christmas travel, especially if you’re flying. Zajac says around 35 per cent of Canadians book Christmas travel more than 91 days in advance, so plan ahead to cut down on supply and demand cost spikes.