Next year, shop for Thanksgiving tickets early. Although that’s absolutely no help whatsoever right now, the following strategies actually will benefit procrastinators of 2016.
Tickets may not be cheap-- you likely won't find any last minute deals-- but you can at least shave a few bucks off your total.
1. Wait no more. The time to buy was a month (or two) ago. It’ll only get worse the longer you hold out.
2. Compare airfares. Go to an airfare comparison site then open another window on your computer for Southwest.com; it’s the only airline that doesn’t share airfare data and you’ll need to know what they charge.
3. Tweak your itinerary. Move it around a day or so as you compare prices to see which days offer better deals for your cities. Some of the cheapest itineraries include departures on Thanksgiving Day-- that may sound like a pain but if you fly early enough, you won’t miss the turkey.
4. Drive a little farther. Or even drive a lot farther if that’s what it takes to get to a big hub-style airport. Bigger airports often have cheaper fares – often, not always – then if you are able to find a better deal farther away, add up the cost of parking, gas and fatigue due to a longer drive, to see if the difference in airfare is worth it.
5. Add a stop. On longer routes, a connecting flight is often cheaper than the more convenient nonstop. Of course, there are routes where non-stops are cheaper, too, but it only takes a second to compare.
6. Use a carry-on. Carry-on bags are free on most airlines, though some (like Frontier and Spirit) charge fees for all bags. If that’s the case with your airline, compare the fees. Spirit, for example, charges less for checked-bags than carry-ons. And be careful when packing because overweight fees can really add up-- especially if you're traveling with a big family of overpackers.
7. Bring snacks. Free meals no longer exist on domestic flights (unless you’re lucky enough to be flying to Hawaii), and airport snack prices can really dent your wallet. Energy bars, nuts and others packaged goodies will keep you satiated on the road.
Rick Seaney is an airline travel expert and the co-founder of FareCompare.com, an airfare comparison shopping site