The holiday period around Christmas is notorious for being a difficult, stressful and expensive time to travel. Yet for many of us, making a long trip across the country to spend time with our loved ones is an absolute must.
So is it actually possible to find a good last-minute deal and avoid the long delays many travelers face during this period?
If you plan ahead, travelling during the holiday period (December 20- January 5) doesn’t have to be so bad. Here’s a quick guide to stress-free, affordable holiday travel.
Finding last-minute deals
Flights around Christmas day will almost certainly be more expensive than at other times of the year, though there are a few tricks you can use to keep the cost down.
One trick is to book as early as possible. Christmas eve is fast approaching, so if you haven’t booked your flights yet you should do so now.
If you’re flying as a group, you may find that it is cheaper to sit separately rather than in the same row of the plane. You can also save money by travelling light and only packing hand luggage, as some airlines charge extra for checked bags during this period. This will also save you time at the airport as you won’t need to wait in line to check in your suitcases.
When and where to fly
The day before Christmas eve is widely known to be the busiest travel day of the holiday season, but according to Department of Transportation statistics, it’s actually less busy than several days in the summer.
Travel planning site Orbitz estimate that Wednesday 23 and 30 December will be the busiest days to fly this holiday season, and recommend traveling on Christmas Day and returning on Monday 28 instead.
Orbitz have also listed 10 airports that will be especially busy during the period, with Los Angeles International (LAX), Chicago O’Hare International (ORD) and San Francisco International (SFO) forming the top 3.
While domestic routes are especially busy over Christmas period, international routes can sometimes be relatively quiet. If you fancy a non-traditional holiday, you have a good chance of getting a good deal on a last-minute trans-Atlantic flight, for example.
When to drive
Navigation app company Waze estimate that the worst time to drive will be on the afternoon of Wednesday 23 and throughout Thursday 24 December. The best time to travel will be early morning on Christmas itself.
Waze has also observed that the Christmas eve sees a sharp rise in the number of traffic jams, accidents and hazards, so be sure to take extra care when driving during this period. A traffic and navigation app like Waze can help you avoid traffic jams and take alternative routes to reach your destination quicker.
Traveling during the Christmas holiday period is almost always going to be more expensive, time-consuming and stressful than travelling at other times. Nevertheless, if you take the time to plan your trip in advance and take advantage of online comparison sites and travel apps, you can still find a good deal and reach your destination in time to enjoy the best time of the year with your family.