It’s that time of year again! Thanksgiving is the nation’s favorite holiday, where you can string up your work clothes, log out of your emails and truly unwind with friends and family. While it’s the best holiday of the year, it can also be one of the most expensive periods to travel. Here are our top tips for cheap Thanksgiving travel, so you won’t have to break to celebrate.
Book Ahead of Time
We know Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so if you’ve not already booked your travel, prices will be high. Promise yourself that next year, you’ll book in advance. Research suggests that the peak time to book flights is around 150 days before the date of travel when airlines are most likely to offer discounts and better prices. While flights normally go on sale 11 months before the travel date, airlines are unlikely to offer deals so early on. Cheap flight-finding site Skyscanner has the lowdown on the peak time to book flights during the Thanksgiving period and is worth bearing in mind for next and the following years.
Flexibility is Key
If you’re hoping to travel on the cheap, be flexible with the time and dates you travel. While a very early morning start, such as 4 am, is not ideal, it does mean that prices will be significantly lower.
Dates are everything, with most travelers starting their trip the Wednesday before the official Thanksgiving Thursday holiday, and most people return the following Sunday, making it a five-day long weekend. These are therefore the most expensive dates to fly. If you have some holiday days to use up or are not particular with your dates, try flying earlier in the week and returning earlier, or later in the week and return later. If you don’t mind flying on Thanksgiving day, flights can actually be cheaper, as the majority of people are already relaxing with their families and friends. Use top flight finding tools such as Google Fights, Kayak or Skyscanner to play around with dates and find the cheapest options.
When booking flights, think about alternate airports. It’s possible that other airports are fairly nearby and might have cheaper flights than the most convenient airport in terms of distance. For example, flights can be much cheaper to Newark Airport, than to and from NYC’s JFK.
If you sign up to fare alerts on Google Flights or Kayak you can find out when prices drop or start rising. It’s a great tip for cheap Thanksgiving travel — just be sure to check your emails daily for the alerts.
While many opt to stay at home over the Thanksgiving period, you could also consider finding cheap flights abroad. Some of the cheapest international options include a trip to Iceland (where you can find lowcost airfares with airlines such as WOW and Norwegian) or heading across the border to Mexico or Canada, where you can drive across and spend a few days immersed in a different culture. To keep things cheap, stay in Airbnb rentals or hostels. It might even be a cheaper trip than if you had flown to see family on the other side of the US! A trip to Europe is also worth considering, as Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated in Europe and prices are generally very low at the end of November, which is off-peak season across the pond.
Use Those Points
It’s easy to forget air-miles accumulate with many credit cards and rewards schemes. Look into it and see what points you already have and use them towards travel to help keep Thanksgiving cheap.
Black Friday, the Friday directly after Thanksgiving, is a day when hordes of people descend on shops to find bargains — meaning they’re not traveling. This is one of the best days to travel, whether arriving a day late to see family and friends or leaving shortly after the Thursday turkey dinner, it’s a great way to save money.
Bus and Train Travel
The sooner you book, the better with bus and train travel. Unlike airfares, it’s unlikely that bus or train ticket prices will fluctuate and companies will offer discounted travel.
According to recent studies, more people are boarding buses than ever before over the Thanksgiving period in order to save on airfares. Long distance buses are comfortable and in some cases, it can be quicker than flying or taking the train, as you don’t need to go through a two-hour security process or collect luggage at an airport. Bus stations also tend to have a more central location, meaning they are easier to get to, or leave from, than airports. Some of the top bus companies are Megabus, Greyhound Express and RedCoach, which all offer comfortable seating, and some even have free WiFi.
Low-Cost Airlines Aren’t Everything
Low-cost airlines aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. The price of adding a seat so you’re sat next to family or friends, or checking a bag, adds up very quickly. This can often mean low-cost airlines aren’t necessarily the best option unless you are traveling light and on your own.
Stay in a Hotel
Not only will it give you some space from the family or the in-laws, but hotels are also known to be underbooked around this time of year, meaning great deals are available!
Don’t Travel with Luggage
You’ll just be away for a long weekend, so if you can, avoid traveling with baggage. Packing light is a real art, but it can save you a lot of dollars if you only use a carry-on bag.
The prices of snacks are often greatly marked up at airports, bus stations, and train stations. Bring your own snacks to save a bit of money. You’ll also avoid huge queues and potential delays because of being extra prepared! If you’re still feeling money-conscious, check out the 9 Travel Tips for Keeping to Your Vacation Budget.