It’s no secret that Christmas is one of the most popular times of year for travel — flights and hotel rates spike accordingly. But there are still plenty of ways to save on your holiday travels this year.
If you plan to travel, monitor and understand the risk assessment levels for your destination when planning your trip, before departure and on arrival. Follow safety measures that include wearing a mask in public settings, maintaining social distancing and washing your hands. If you are diagnosed, have symptoms of or are waiting for test results for COVID-19 — or are otherwise at risk of illness — do not host, attend gatherings or travel for 14 days.
Cheap Christmas vacations and holiday travel deals
10 tips to find cheap Christmas flights and vacations
1. Fly on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.
Flights in the days leading up to December 25 tend to be the most expensive of the month, since travelers want to be at their destination to open presents on Christmas morning. If you’re flexible, fly on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Especially if you’re traveling somewhere that’s only an hour or two away, you might still be able to get to your holiday party destination before lunch.
Keep in mind that transportation to and from your hotel might be tricky — some cities charge extra, shut down or limit public transit on Christmas Day. Uber or Lyft will come in handy.
2. Fly back mid-January.
Most people who catch a flight before Christmas Day tend to fly back home just after New Year’s. So if you can, try to avoid flights during the week following New Year’s Day to cash in on cheaper fares that follow.
3. Take advantage of a cheap all-inclusive deal.
Blue skies and sandy beaches may be more accessible than you think, as travel providers like Book VIP and Travelzoo are offering super low prices to incentivize people to start traveling again. US tourists are currently being welcomed into such sunny destinations as Costa Rica, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas and other islands in the Caribbean.
Just keep in mind that package vacations will be cheapest in the first half of December and early January, so you’ll find the best Christmas deals if you celebrate early or later. For example, we found a deal via Book VIP for four nights at an all-inclusive resort in Los Cabos, Mexico plus airfare for just $449 per person — but that rate was only available from December 1 to 15.
4. Fly into a major city and drive from there.
You’ll pay for convenience over the holiday season, with steeper prices at smaller, local airports. If you have some extra time, compare prices between major airports within driving distance of your final destination, and consider adding a mini road trip to your travel itinerary if it’ll help save you money overall.
We expect car rentals to be cheap this season — especially if you book over Black Friday or Cyber Monday — as companies are hoping to attract customers in the wake of a rocky year.
5. Keep it local.
If you don’t have to fly to see relatives during the holidays, consider staying local until the hustle and bustle of the holiday season dies down. Then, take your vacation or family trip and save hundreds.
6. Road trip it.
While you’re staying local, you might as well make it a scenic road trip instead of a short flight. Not only could you save on bloated airfare this time of year, but you’ll also get to spend some extra time with your friends and family in the car.
Booking through a short-term or vacation rental service like Airbnb or Vrbo could save you tons during the holidays. But the catch is that you might have to book these accommodations well in advance, since this is a popular time to travel.
8. Rent a winter cabin.
You’ve seen the photos — dreamy log cabins coated in sparkling white snow. Those places actually exist! And from our personal experience, winter cabins rarely disappoint. Bring some board games, hot cocoa mix and pick up some firewood from the gas station in town so that you can spend long, cozy nights curled up by the roaring fire.
9. Opt for a package.
Stretch your holiday bucks by bundling your flight, lodging, rental car and activities if there’s no way around flying and staying in a hotel. You can usually find great package deals from United Vacations, Southwest Vacations, Orbitz, Travelocity and more.
Not having any luck finding cheaper plane tickets? Consider forgoing extras like checked baggage, in-flight meals and drinks.
These perks on budget airlines significantly increase the price of your flight — sometimes even doubling it. If you’re traveling with a family of four, extras can easily add up to a night’s hotel stay.
Traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic
With infection rates rapidly spiking nationwide, expect stronger travel restrictions as the holidays near. The CDC strongly advises postponing travel and staying close to home to avoid getting or spreading COVID-19.
If you plan to travel during the pandemic, monitor and understand the risk assessment levels for your destination when planning your trip, before departure and on arrival. Follow safety measures that include wearing a mask in public settings, maintaining social distancing and washing your hands. If you are diagnosed, have symptoms of or are waiting for test results for COVID-19 — or are otherwise at risk of illness — do not host, attend gatherings or travel for 14 days. Note that the CDC warns against cruise travel at this time.
It depends. Many travel booking sites offer discounts for booking your flight and hotel together, but it’s still worth comparing prices from several providers on separate travel arrangements to make sure you’re getting the best deal available on both.
In the winter, the cheapest flights are usually from January after New Year’s Day to early March. For spring and summer travel, May is usually a cheaper month to fly, since it’s before the busy summer rush and after spring break.
The cheapest days to travel during the holiday season are usually Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
The most expensive days are December 15, 16 and 26 through 28.
All Christmas and holiday travel deals
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The SeaWorld San Diego Fun Card gives you full access to the rest of 2020 as well as all of next year, 2021 - including special events like Spooktacular, Christmas Celebration and other seasonal events. T&Cs apply.
Stephanie Yip is the travel editor at Finder and has been writing about travel and lifestyle for over a decade. She has written for a range of travel publications including Thomas Cook Magazine and Showpo. Stephanie has a Bachelor of Communications from the University of Technology Sydney, Australia, and has visited over 50 countries (and counting). She has a passion for sharing her experiences and knowledge of travel and helping consumers stretch their travel cash while on holiday.
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