OK, OK, we know you're just trying to get through Halloween, but if you're planning a big holiday trip, we need to talk about Thanksgiving and Christmas. Travel's a supply and demand game, and auto club AAA put about 103 million people hitting the roads and/or sky between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2 in 2016. In other words: time to start planning.
Here are eight ways to save on your holiday travel in 2017.
1. Book now
Seriously. Like right this second. Plenty of studies from trusted travel search engines have found October's the time to get a cheap(er) flight home for Christmas and New Year's. And, TBH, the best days might already be behind us. A study from Skyscanner actually found booking a Thanksgiving flight eleven weeks out (the week of Sept. 4th) would save you the most. But don't get too down: Today will almost always be better than tomorrow. Prices tend to climb steadily as a holiday approaches. And, if you've got to hold off on booking your airfare, you still can save by flying on the "best" days.
2. Travel on Thanksgiving
Not ideal, we know, but that's exactly why it'll save you money. Everyone wants to take-off the day before Thanksgiving and come home the Sunday after, so, naturally, those days are the most expensive to fly on. But flight comparison site Hopper found you can save $54 by departing on Thanksgiving morning (Nov. 23) and $161 by returning on Wednesday, Nov. 29 instead.
3. Go home early for Christmas ...
Hopper's data put Saturday, Dec. 16 or Tuesday, Dec. 19 as the cheapest days to head home for the Christmas in 2017, while Friday, Dec. 22 was the most most expensive. Traveling on Christmas itself was in the middle of the $324 to $434 average price range.
4. ... & stay later into the new year
Lots of people head home on New Year's Day (it's on a Monday this year, so they probably need to get back to work the next day). Needless to say, a flight on that day will cost you. Hopper puts it at $428 on average. But traveling after the first day of 2018 will save you some money, with Jan. 4 hitting maximum cheapness ($331).
5. Stay with the fam
That way you can skip paying for a hotel room. If there's no room at the family inn, consider alt-accomodations, like Airbnb, VRBO, Flipkey or HomeAway.
6. Ship your luggage
Most of the time, it's cheaper to pay a baggage fee, but if you need to bring a ton of gifts with you and/or are staying for a long stretch of time, shipping becomes a budget-friendly option. Sometimes, sending your stuff four or five days ahead of your trip will cost less than the fee for an overweight bag or multiple checked bags. Plus, shipping companies like FedEx, UPS, the U.S. Post Office or specialty services like Luggage Forward have a leg up when it comes to protection and tracking for your things. Speaking of protection...
7. Get good travel insurance
Travel insurance covers financial losses related to a delayed or canceled trip. It usually costs around 4% to 8% of the total trip, but comparison-shopping can help you score the best deal. You can compare travel insurance quotes here.
8. Use an app
These days, technology furnishes you with everything from airfare alerts to digital coupons to currency conversion. Apps can also help you track cell phone data usage or find a cheap place to gas up your tank. You can find some of our favorite travel apps here.
Image: Tom Merton