Best bargains for a December holiday break, plus tips on how to get the best deal.
It’s no secret that Christmas is the hottest time of year for people to travel. It’s also no secret that it’s one of the most expensive times to travel. The cheapest tickets often get snapped up early and sales tend not to include Christmas holiday periods – but don’t be discouraged!
With the kids on vacation and a four-day weekend off from work (Dec. 23–26, 2017), you shouldn’t let the last-minute rush stand between you and your holiday. There are still ways to have a cheap Christmas getaway. Scroll down to find out how:
10 tips to get the cheapest Christmas flights and vacations
1. Fly on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day
Flights during the week before Christmas Day tend to be the most expensive for the month, as everyone who’s searching for a Christmas getaway will want to be at their destination on the 25th. If you’re not that picky, fly on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. If you’re traveling somewhere that’s only an hour or two away, you may still be able to get to your celebrations before lunch. It may not be the best thing celebration-wise, but it could save you hundreds.
Just be wary of transportation to your hotel when you arrive, as some cities shut down or limit public transit on Christmas Day (e.g. London) or charge a public holiday surcharge.
2. Fly back mid-January
Those people flying out before Christmas Day will most likely be flying back just after New Year’s. So try to avoid flights in the week following New Year’s Day to cash in on the cheaper fares that follow.
3. Vacation in a country that doesn’t celebrate Christmas
Where there will be Christmas celebrations, tourists will flock, so choose places that don’t really celebrate, such as China, Cambodia, Japan and Morocco, and you might find less of a fluctuation in airfares compared to other destinations.
4. Pick destinations that are generally more affordable
Shave costs by choosing destinations that are either closer to home or are more affordable.
While places like Southeast Asia are cheap anytime and will be a bit more expensive during the holidays, prices won’t bloat as much as big cities or pricier destinations.
5. Keep it local
Don’t rule out short flights within your own country for a Christmas break. It’s still a break, after all, and you won’t have to worry about passports, visas and currency exchanges to boot.
We took a look to see how much a roundtrip flight over the holiday period – departing Saturday, Dec. 23, and returning Jan. 1, 2018 – would be, and here are some sample fares we found:
- Charlotte from NYC for $397 roundtrip
- Las Vegas from Chicago for $225 roundtrip
- Cancun from Atlanta for $422 roundtrip
6. Ditch the flight altogether and take a road trip
If you’re keeping it local, why not make it a road trip instead? Big families can benefit from this most, as you’ll only have to pay a set price for the car rental instead of purchasing separate seats for each member of the brood on the plane.
According to Enterprise, renting a car from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for Dec. 23, 2017, to Jan. 1, 2018 (drive out Saturday morning, drive back in on New Year’s Day and only take three days off work), starts at $469.
7. Once you arrive, don’t stay in hotels
We don’t have to tell you twice that booking through a short-term or vacation rental service like Airbnb or VRBO can save you tons. Christmas is no exception. Prices are set by the renters, and accommodations can vary from anything from a room in an apartment to a whole house.
8. Camp it
If you’re heading south, bring down the holiday splurge a little more by opting to go camping instead of booking accommodations. Family tents can be found inexpensively and can be reused on your next trip.
Sites are much cheaper than hotels or Airbnb-style accommodations, and they’re sometimes even free if you’re willing to forfeit facilities.
9. Opt for a package
Bundled packages that include flights, accommodations and sometimes activities can be a godsend during the peak period. To be fair, prices per package do go up according to the season, but with everything taken care of for you, it’s a time saver – especially for the budget-savvy of us who have to research and compare every different option.
Check out the packages sections of sites like Expedia to see just how much you can save on your vacation.
10. Fly without extras
If you’re not having any luck with the price of your actual flight, consider forgoing extras like checked baggage (or share luggage to cut costs in half), in-flight meals and drinks.
We find these perks on budget airlines significantly increase the price of your flight – sometimes even doubling it. It may not seem like much, but if you’re traveling with a family of four, these extras can easily add up to an extra night’s hotel stay. Think of it as a bonus vacation.
Note: All prices mentioned below are accurate at the time of writing (November 2017) and are subject to change.