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10/20/2014

Holiday Travel Planning

To me, the holidays are a time of love, great food, and spending time with family and friends. With an increased focus on consumerism during the latter months of the year--not budgeting for expenses you anticipate to have can leave you pinching pennies into the New Year.

For the last 5 years, I have not traveled home for Thanksgiving. Mainly because the plane tickets are awfully expensive. As an alternative-I usually plan a potluck dinner with friends where we each contribute 1 or 2 dishes. Back in Austin, my friends and I cooked like we were feeding the Duggar Family but it was usually only 4 of us. And each year, I came not only with my baked macaroni and cheese in hand but also a brand new tupperware set that I used for leftovers and stocked up for the week. I am not ashamed--sue me.

For some, family is within driving distance. For me, to attend a family gathering usually requires a plane ticket. This past week, Southwest was advertising a major sale, so I decided to take advantage of it. After figuring out vacation days, doing some math and cost comparisons, I ended up only paying $192 for my round trip ticket back home to DC/VA for Christmas.

Southwest Airlines- Milwaukee to BWI Airport= $99

American Airlines- DC to Madison- Used loyalty points + additional point purchase = $93

Here are a few tips I have for booking airline tickets:

Keep an eye on airfare and watch for sales

Bing.com/travel and kayak.com are my go to sites. They compare all major airlines, and both sites also lets you use different filters to get your “perfect” itinerary.

Try to be as flexible with dates and airports as possible

Luckily, DC has several airport options. The most convenient is Regan International, which is about 20 minutes from my mom’s house; however this time it wasn’t the cheapest. So I opted to fly to BWI for my departure trip and return back to Madison flying from Reagan International.

Building in a day on both ends of your trip also gives you some flexibility in booking the cheapest fare

Sign up for loyalty programs--ALL of them.

I accumulated 11,000 points last year by flying American Airlines. One-way ticket in/out of Madison on the same airline is 12,500 points. I saved over $250 just from using points versus purchasing a ticket outright, which could have cost me (as of Friday) $383 for one way.

Additionally, I participate in AirTran and Southwest airline loyalty programs. These companies are in the process of merging, so as of Nov. 1--with the combined past travel accumulated, I anticipate to have another free one-way flight to use.

Window seat, selected. Visa card, entered. Submit. Boom. I cannot wait!

Comments

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When I lived in Boston, I learned the trick of watching flight prices on Tuesdays. That always seemed to be the day they dropped.

Yes! I remember reading that in an article. I also saw that the best booking window to purchase a ticket is 54 days in advance...great tips for avid travelers.

I'm so glad you are able to visit your family for the holidays. It's always nice to spend time with friends, but family are important too. Have a great trip!

BTW, I'll pass on your idea to my step-daughter as she is looking into purchasing airline tickets for the holidays too!

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