Airports are notoriously extra busy during the holidays, so give yourself as much as twice the time than you usually need. Credit: Creatas
While it pays to book travel in advance, you aren't completely screwed if you haven't finalized your Christmas or New Year's trips yet. Bob Diener, co-founder of Hotels.com and Getaroom.com, shares his tips for going home for the holidays without going broke.
Plan strategically. Know what days to avoid traveling and what days offer the cheapest rates. "December 21, 22 and 23 are the busiest days to travel, but you can get a much cheaper flight for the morning of Christmas Eve," Diener tells Metro. Unlike with Christmas, the same logic does not apply to New Year's — Diener says flights on New Year's Eve are pretty pricey. He also recommends avoiding using Jan. 5 as your return travel day. Heading home just a couple days earlier will save you a good percentage on flights.
Try smaller airports. Most big city dwellers automatically choose the most well-known or convenient airport, but according to our expert, you can often get cheaper flights out of one of the surrounding airports. Not only are they cheaper, but they tend to be less crowded, too. Just give yourself extra time. "If you are flying out of a smaller airport that tends to get a lot of snow, give yourself more time," Diener says. No matter where you're flying out of, he recommends giving yourself 50 to 100 percent more time than it usually takes to make your flight.
Book a room at a boutique hotel. Instead of just Googling the local Holiday Inn or other hotel chain, book a room at a smaller, independent hotel. "The chain name hotels tend to go first because that's what people know and call first, but often the boutique hotels are a better value," Diener says. And if you're traveling with kids, consider booking two rooms instead of automatically going for a suite. It's often much cheaper. He also recommends considering a vacation rental. "There are a lot of great apartment-style accommodations that are priced less than a hotel and you have more room."
Call for unadvertised rates.Getaroom.com has partnered with 30,000 hotels to offer rates 10 to 20 percent less than what's advertised online, but you have to call to get the deal. After using the website to find your hotel, call and ask to see if there is an unpublished deal. Often, there is.
Use social media. "Liking" your favorite airlines and hotels is a great way to find deals that aren't advertised elsewhere. "A lot of brands are using social marketing to offer better deals," Diener says. Who knows, you just might come across that one gem of a deal that makes procrastinating almost worth it.