How to Save on Last Minute Thanksgiving Flights

There’s still time to book airfare for the Thanksgiving holiday. We can’t guarantee you rock-bottom prices, but keep these tips in mind and you’ll save money. These are all valid for the Holidays and any other last minute flights as well.

100208--Ohare--MT.jpgGet out of the normal date range

There are two ways you can save on fares: consider flying Thursday, the day of Thanksgiving, for one. You’ll probably pinch a few pennies that way. Even greater savings will come if you are willing to take a vacation day and fly back on Monday. You might save as much as $75&endash;$100 dollars. Always consider alternative airports for wherever you’re going. In the case of San Francisco, for example, this means checking flights into Oakland and San Jose.

Know the hidden fees

To tackle this from another angle, let’s assume you can’t get a magical fare that’s dirt cheap. You can still save a few dollars by knowing your airline fees. First: read the fine print when booking online, and buy directly from the airline whenever possible. In doing so you’ll have a better picture of what the various taxes and surchages will be—and they can all add up. Second: never check a second bag. Several airlines in the U.S. are now charging $25 each way for that, and also if your first bag is over their weight limit, usually 50 pounds. Check with your airline. See our Carry-on Bag Buyer’s Guide for more info. Finally, never assume you can “just go standby” if you’re not totally happy with the flight you’ve booked. You’ll pay for that now, too.

Research thoroughly

There are several online booking engines that can help you with your research in last-minute or late flight booking. For starters, do some research using Farecast. If you haven’t visited this site before, it’s a really handy tool to help you make your decision: using a very large volume of data, with new information added every day, they are able to make a prediction about what the price of a given route will do during the next seven day period so that they can either advise you to buy now or wait. It’s quite a helpful way to do your research.

Another option is Lastminute, but Thanksgiving is too far away for flights to be showing there yet. You could wait until mid-November but that’d be a roll of the dice.

For all-purpose flight research we like Kayak, which allows you total control over all the variables through an intuitively-designed interface.

Take a bus!

Finally, dare we suggest that you take a bus? For shorter trips such as New York to DC or Boston, numerous extremely affordable alternatives have sprung up. Usually they have WiFi, which is an advantage over air travel, and these new bus companies are always comfortable and affordable. Our favorites are Vamoose (NYC to DC only), Megabus (all of the U.S.), and BoltBus (East Coast).

If you find any good deals, please share them on our Last-Minute Airfare thread in the forums. For more tips like these, check out our Fodor’s 1,001 Smart Travel Tips book. Good luck!