Most of us do make holiday travel plans ahead of time. There's vacation time to schedule at work, care for pets to arrange, and money to budget. There's also the reality that last minute travel, especially for airfare, is expensive.
"Flights can definitely be full or very expensive," explains Pat Kohlstedt of Gary-Wheaton Travel. "This happens a lot during spring break and the holidays. People always seem surprised that flights are so full, but there are fewer flights now and more people are deciding to go no matter what."
Sometimes, however, last minute travel is necessary. Maybe you've gotten a holiday bonus, or listening to "I'll be Home for Christmas" has made you terribly homesick. Whatever the reason prompting your excursion, here are some tips to help get you to where you want to go.
1. Be flexible
Flexibility means not only being flexible with your travel times, but also with your flight dates.
"Flexibility is key to obtaining decent fares for last minute air travel," says Kohlstedt. "Look at off-peak times, which usually means early in the morning or late at night."
When it comes to dates, consider arriving in the morning of a holiday. There is more availability on the actual holiday, say arriving Christmas morning and leaving early
Look at alternate airports and routes, says Kohlstedt. For example, if you are flying to
Flying into a nearby alternate airport then driving to your final destination can save money as well since fares to these airports can be cheaper.
You should also consider indirect flights. "Sometimes unusual routings for foreign travel can be beneficial," says Kohlstedt.
If it's a foreign travel holiday getaway you're seeking, Kohlsted suggests being open to different destinations. "It can make a big difference if you can keep the destination open," she says. "It's the off-season somewhere.
3. Get help
There are a number of websites to consult when looking for last minute flights. Cheapflights.com can help you search for fares and also has a link to alternate airports throughout the country. Or to save the hassle and headache, consider consulting a travel agent.
"Travel agents have many resources and suppliers that we can check with to give you the best options," says Kohlstedt. "There are so many variables in each trip, what works for one person may not work for someone else. We work with clients and try to come up with something that works best for them, sometimes better than what they may have thought of. We really try to save our clients time, money and anxiety."
4. Don't do it
Kohlstedt's last bit of advice may be something you don't want to hear: Don't wait until the last minute.
"There are only so many lower priced seats on each plane and once those are gone, the price just keeps going up," she says. "If you know you have to be somewhere, it seems two to three months before is the sweet spot these days. This does not apply to holiday travel or