5 Tips to Save on Thanksgiving Travel

Written By Jeff Hindenach
Last updated December 7, 2020

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November 19, 2016

Simple. Thrifty. Living.

Let’s be honest, holiday travel can be some of the most expensive travel. The flights alone can cost an arm and a leg. And since many airlines blackout most holiday travel days, you can forget about scoring deals or using your miles to help save money. Does that mean you just have to bite the bullet and pay the crazy prices for traveling home for Thanksgiving? Maybe not. Here are a few ideas to help cut some of those expensive holiday travel costs:

If you want to accumulate miles that you can actually use for holiday travel, get a “no blackout dates” credit card. These credit cards aren’t connected to a specific airline and let you accumulate miles to use on any travel purchase you want to. The upside is that you can book your travel whenever you want. The downside is that you aren’t actually using your miles to book the trip; you use them to “pay” for the trip that you’ve already charged to the card. Another downside is that you generally get less miles for every $1 you spend, but it is the price you pay for not having to deal with blackout dates.

If you are able to, driving instead of flying can be a huge cost saver during the holidays, especially this Thanksgiving. Gas prices are at an all-time low, which means it will be even cheaper to take to the road this holiday season. If you don’t want to take your own car, you can rent a car, but don’t rent it from the airport. Airport rental prices are higher during the holidays, so look for a rental place around your neighborhood instead.

Most people want to get home before Thanksgiving so they can spend the entire day with family, but if you are willing to fly early or be a little late to the Thanksgiving festivities, then flying on Thanksgiving day can save you a bunch of money on your flight. Very early morning flights are generally cheaper anyway, so if you are ok waking up early, you can save on your flight and make it to Thanksgiving dinner on time.

If you really can’t fly on Thanksgiving day, a very late flight on the day before can also land you a better deal, especially if it’s a red-eye.

The major airport hubs are super busy on the holidays, but since smaller airports are often overlooked as an option, they can often be a lot slower, and therefore a lot cheaper, during the holidays. Prices for rental cars are also lower at most smaller airports, so even if you have to drive a little out of the way, it could still end up saving you money in the long run.

If your plans are flexible and you aren’t in a “must fly” situation, it can pay off to wait until the last minute to get a deal on your plane ticket. Many airlines wait to see if they have unfilled seats on flights until the last minute, and then they lower the price. So if you can wait until one or two days before to make a decision on your travel plans, you might be able to score a deal on your travel plans.

About the Author

Jeff Hindenach

Jeff Hindenach is the co-founder of Simple. Thrifty. Living. He graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. He has a long history of financial journalism, with a background writing for newspapers such as the San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Examiner, as well as writing on personal finance for The Huffington Post, New York Times, Business Insider, CNBC, Newsday and The Street. He believes in giving readers the tools they need to get out of debt.

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