5 ways to win at holiday travel

Holiday travel

The holidays are a time to celebrate, and traveling to your holiday destination shouldn’t put a damper on the event. Airport traffic is high during this popular time of year, but there are a few key tricks to ensure you have a smooth, hassle-free experience. Consider these holiday travel tips an early gift, no matter how you plan to celebrate this season.

packing a suitcase for winter travel GIF

Shop early, but wait to buy
Airfare blogs publish their findings on the best times—and, in some cases, the best day—for purchasing plane tickets annually. Expert advice is always helpful, but it also pays to do your own research, too.

Start searching once or twice a week at least a month or two before the holiday in question. Pay attention not only to the prices themselves, but also to trends—are tickets getting cheaper, becoming more expensive, or staying about the same? If prices stagnate for a long time then suddenly start to rise, you’ll know it’s time to buy. Search once or twice the day after you buy your ticket, too, because you can often get a full refund if you find a better price within 24 hours and you’re at least seven days out from departure.

Travel on or just before the holiday
It can be tempting to arrive a few days before a holiday, particularly if you live far away and don’t visit often, but you’ll generally pay for this privilege. Flights on December 22 and 23 are almost always more than those on December 24 or 25. One way to reap cost savings without losing time with your family is to take an early morning flight on the holiday itself. You’ll also find it’s cheaper to return either just after or way after the holiday. If you don’t plan to stay the entire weekend for Thanksgiving, it will almost certainly be cheaper to leave on Friday as opposed to the Sunday after.

Pay with points instead of cash
Many airlines offer the option to pay for flights with points—loyalty rewards you can earn depending on how often or how far you fly with an airline. Oftentimes, buying with points as opposed to cash is a better value, especially if you’re considering an upgraded class or traveling internationally. This is particularly true if you have to wait until a less-than-optimal booking time to confirm your travel. As a bonus, JetBlue’s TrueBlue points don’t expire and have automatic blackout dates, so you can find an great deal and pay less for it, too.

Sign up for TSA Pre ®
Because of the sheer volume of customers traveling during the holidays, security procedures often slow down airport security lines. Many people who travel at this time of year aren’t seasoned fliers, which means they may not know about standard procedures such as removing their shoes, laptops and liquids. The best solution? Bypass the standard security line entirely with TSA Pre✓ ®. This allows you to keep your shoes on and your possessions inside your bag in exchange for allowing the government to perform a thorough background check on you.

If you regularly travel internationally, you might also consider applying for the Global Entry program. This not only expedites your re-entry into the United States—which really comes in handy during the holidays—but it also includes automatic enrollment in TSA Pre✓, a veritable gift that keeps on giving.

Give yourself the gift of travel insurance
An invaluable gift you can give yourself this holiday season is preparedness—specifically travel insurance, which you can purchase through your airline. It accommodates you in the event of travel delays and cancellations such as those caused by aircraft maintenance or connections missed through no fault of your own. Purchasing a travel insurance policy usually costs only a small fraction of your ticket price, and allows you to travel with peace of mind, which may be the best gift of all.

Whether you deck the halls with boughs of holly, light a menorah or slice up a turkey, holiday travel can be your greatest gift if you play your cards right.