• Menu
  • Menu

How to Score Cheap Holiday Flights

This post may contain affiliate links.

When it comes to holiday travel, finding flight deals is possible, you just need to know where to look. If you’re planning on traveling this holiday season, here are some insider tips on how you can maximize your savings.

Figure Out the Best Time to Book Airfare

While you should always book your airfare as soon as possible, that’s not always an option. Waiting for PTO to be approved, having changed plans and other circumstances can make last minute travel the only option. When this happens, using flight predictors is important.

While there are a few flight predictor apps and websites, the most popular is Hopper. This app only flight forecaster allows you to predict flight prices with 95% accuracy up to a year in advance. For comparison, the closest competitor is Expedia who can only predict prices up to a week in advance. By using Hopper, you can see if you should book the moment your PTO is approved, or if you should wait a day or two. Best yet, you can get alerts on your phone that will notify you if there’s a too-good-to-be-true deal that you need to bounce on.

Last Thanksgiving for example, when Google flights were showing me $500 roundtrip flights to Las Vegas, Hopper was able to alert me when Southwest opened up a flight with one layover for only $219 roundtrip. I purchased it on the spot, and the deal only lasted a few minutes after before it was gone for good.

Consider Budget Airlines but Be Careful

For a couple of years, I only flew Allegiant Air. It was the only airline that would allow me to fly to the places I frequented most, for as cheap as $19 each way. It was a steal, especially for a 20-something on a small budget, but I had to learn how to outsmart the airlines.

While budget airlines typically offer holiday travel flights for 30%-60% cheaper than competition carriers, you get absolutely no bells and whistles. I had to learn that booking my airfare at the airport ahead of time saved me $26 in fees and that I wouldn’t have to pay for carry on luggage if I utilized Allegiant approved personal item bags (my favorites are this onethis one, and this one).

Whether you book Spirit, Allegiant, Frontier or even Southwest, make sure you read all of the rules to save money.

Utilize Deal Sites

Major airlines sell gift cards just like everyone else. At any given time, you can browse eBay, Raise, or Gift Card Granny and score $100 airline gift cards for $90. On a GREAT day, I’ve seen some $100 Southwest gift cards be sold for $80. If you’re booking flights that cost a few hundred dollars, by purchasing discounted airline gift cards first, you can easily save $20+.

Additionally, you can also find some awesome in-flight savings as well. On eBay, you can usually find a four pack of Southwest drink coupons on sale for $5 (drinks usually cost $8 each – a $27 savings), and Southwest Flight Vouchers for 30% off.

Utilize Credit Card Perks

While it’s absolutely important you only sign up for credit cards you know you can pay off, if you’re already going to be spending money, you can enjoy a lot of freebies thanks to credit card perks.

For example, when you sign up for Chase Saphire and meet your minimum spend, you’ll have at least $600 that you can spend on airfare, hotels, and more. Even better, it comes with FREE trip insurance. That same $600 can easily turn into $1,700 in travel perks when you use their portal to book your deal.

Alternatively, there are Chase cards for airlines, like the three they offer for Southwest, that allows you to earn their exclusive Companion Pass for up to two years at a time. You can read our full post about it HERE, but in short, Southwest gives you 110,000 Rapid Rewards points when you open two credit cards that you can spend on free travel for yourself, and you always get a plus one travel companion that can fly with you for free as well (they just pay tax).

By doing your holiday spending or making everyday purchases, you can score at least $600 in free travel which you can use anytime – especially the holidays. If you aim to get the Southwest Companion Pass, both you and your plus one can travel ultimately anywhere roundtrip for free as long as seats are available.

Alternatively, some credit cards (Capitol Venture, Barclays etc.) allow you to “erase” travel purchases, which means if you’re a family of four traveling from New York to Denver last minute for $3,000 – once you book your flights you’ll hit the minimum spend, and then you can call your credit card and ask for $600-$1,300 to be erased from the amount owed. That’s more than a 30% savings that you can enjoy immediately.

If You Feel Risky, Try Getting Bumped

I feel almost dirty for even suggesting this, but if you’re willing to take an educated risk, you can consider being bumped.

There are groups dedicated to learning the ins and outs of bumping, but in general, you book a flight you know is oversold, so that you can be intentionally bumped to the next available flight with available seating. By accepting the offer to be bumped to a later flight, the airline will not only refund you the price that you paid for your flight, but you’ll typically receive a $200-$1,500 compensation voucher for future flights as well. When holiday flights can double or triple in cost, you might want to consider this as an option.

To be bumped, first, you need to ensure your flight is oversold. All major U.S. airlines do this, as they aim to have a full flight even with people canceling. Bumping happens so often in fact, that the Department of Transportation admits that in 2015, 46,000 passengers were involuntarily bumped, and 505,000 people volunteered to be bumped. Use this to your advantage, and make sure you only book a full flight. You can either pretend to book online and see their seating map to see how many seats are still available, or you can call the airline directly to ask as well.

From there, show up to the terminal early (usually staff shows up an hour before the flight departure) and offer to put your name on a list to be voluntarily bumped. Airline staff doesn’t usually know if they need volunteers or not until they’re half-way through the boarding process. This is because 20-40 minutes before a flight, airlines close their check-in process. Once that closes, staff members know exactly how many people are checked in and ready to board.

If you’re bumped, you’ll receive around $400 for domestic flights and around $1,350 for international. They can also provide you with lounge upgrades, food vouchers, and a hotel if you’re bumped overnight. If they put you on the following flight with a layover, you can “double and triple bump” allowing you to take a bump each step of the way, in exchange for an extra $400+ at each layover. It isn’t perfect if you’re tight on time, but if you have some flexibility in your schedule, there are thousands of people that make careers out of getting professionally bumped off flights.

Utilize Credit Card Perks

If you asked me last year if I’d play the credit card game, I would have told you “Hell no” with a straight face. I’d always limited myself to two credit cards that didn’t have annual fees and always made my payments in full.

But then, I got into the credit card game. While it’s absolutely important you only sign up for credit cards you know you can pay off, if you’re already going to be spending money, you can enjoy a lot of freebies thanks to credit card perks.

For example, when you sign up for Chase Saphire and meet your minimum spend, you’ll have at least $600 that you can spend on airfare, hotels, and more. Even better, it comes with FREE trip insurance. That same $600 can easily turn into $1,700 in travel perks when you use their portal to book your deal.

Alternatively, there are Chase cards for airlines, like the three they offer for Southwest, that allows you to earn their exclusive Companion Pass for up to two years at a time. You can read our full post about it HERE, but pretty much you have 110,000 Rapid Rewards points to spend on free travel for yourself, and you always get a plus one travel companion that can fly with you for free as well (they just pay tax).

By doing your holiday spending or making everyday purchases, you can score at least $600 in free travel which you can use anytime – especially the holidays.

Even better, some credit cards (Capitol Venture, Barclays etc.) allow you to “erase” travel purchases, which means if you’re a family of four traveling from New York to Denver for $3,000 – once you book your flights you’ll hit the minimum spend, and then you can call your credit card and ask for $600-$1,300 to be erased from the amount owed. That’s more than a 30% savings that you can enjoy.

By utilizing these deals, you can easily save 30% or more on your trip. If you have any deal-specific questions, feel free to reach out and I’d be more than happy to help!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *