Work has been insane, and you haven’t gotten a chance to book your flight home for the holidays. You got dozens of emails and alerts advertising stellar Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Travel Tuesday airfare deals, but you were so busy you missed them.
So now what? Have you missed all the great holiday airfare deals?
Don’t worry, you’re in luck. Dollar Flight Club, an airfare tracking service that helps members find the best airfare deals for domestic and international flights, told InsideSources that December may be the best month of the year to buy flights, because many airlines offer deals and sales to get you to buy so they can close the year out strong.
Typically, the best time to buy a flight is three to four months in advance, but Dollar Flight Club founder Jesse Neugarten said airfare deal websites like Dollar Flight Club or Scott’s Cheap Flights can help you get a last-minute flight that isn’t astronomically expensive.
“The best way to do that is setting up fare alerts,” he said because in December, airfare jumps and nosedives more rapidly than usual.
This time of year, if you see a good price, you should book it immediately, Neugarten said.
“When you do find a deal, if you book directly with the airline, you should book it, because you have a 24-hour cancellation policy,” Neugarten said. “These deals only last a few hours. So book it.”
If you reconsider, you still have 24 hours to cancel with no fee or penalty.
One common pitfall of finding cheap flights, especially during the holidays, is booking through budget airlines like Frontier, Spirit and Norwegian Airlines.
“Budget airlines are the ones who advertise all these sales, like Spirit, Frontier, Norwegian Airlines,” he said. “They’re the ones who will advertise cheap fares. You don’t see Delta advertising deals. What actually happens is, they tag on a bunch of extra fees that people don’t realize.”
Once you add up all the fees, you often end up paying the same for a Spirit flight as you would for a Delta flight, but with less legroom.
The other pitfall to watch out for with budget airlines is, they often only have one flight per day connecting two cities to cut costs (that’s one reason why their flights are so cheap). So, if the budget airline cancels your flight to Seattle due to snow, you might be stranded at the airport for the night.
While that may not be a big deal at any other time of year, the holidays are much more time-sensitive. Getting stranded can wreck holiday plans.
“But if you book deals on Lufthansa or Delta, think about how many flights Delta has going from San Diego to New York a day,” Neugarten said. “If something gets canceled, they’re going to have more flights to get you on and a lot of partners to essentially get you on to that flight.”
Some consumers find cheap flights through “hidden city” ticketing: they want to fly to Chicago, but because direct flights over shorter distances are often more expensive, they buy a cheap flight from Dayton to New York with a layover in Chicago, and simply get off in Chicago without continuing the last leg of the flight.
Airlines discourage this practice and Lufthansa sued a passenger who skipped the last leg of his flight last year, but a Berlin court threw out the lawsuit, essentially giving passengers the green light to continue “hidden city” ticketing.