Preparing for the Holiday Travel Season? Here's What the Experts Have to Say

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How does the old song go?

“I’ll be home for Christmas… But only in my dreams.”

That’s a bittersweet tune, to be sure – and it’s one that plenty of consumers could be singing, if they don’t plan ahead for the holiday travel season!

Whether it’s to visit family or to head off to some exotic locale, millions of Americans are planning to pack up and hit the roads (or the skies), as we head toward the end of the year.

For families across the country, the winter months mean opening presents, spending time with family and friends, and overindulging on heavy foods. To frequent travelers and industry watchdogs, this time of year means one thing – ‘tis the season for holiday travel advice, be it the good, the bad, or the fraudulent.

What tips and tricks do media outlets and consumer protection experts have to offer to holiday travelers this year?  Let’s take a look at what the experts have to say about a variety of common holiday travel questions…

When Is the Best Time to Book Flights?

Generally, consumer advocates and travel watchdogs encourage consumers to book their holiday flights as early as possible.

For instance, Jeff Kee, CEO of CheapAir.com, tells U.S. News & World Report that he recommends booking in October or November, since “waiting until December will cost you almost $150 more” than if you’d bought earlier in the year, he says.

Patrick Surry, chief data scientist for Hopper, agrees, telling the New York Times that October is historically the best time for consumers to book for less expensive flights; if that window has already closed, he advises travelers to make their bookings at least 10 days before Christmas, since prices tend to rise by about “$4 per day” after Thanksgiving, then explode to “$7 per day in the final two weeks.”

Are There Particular Days That Are Best for Traveling?

When it comes to actually making the trip, experts tend to agree that it helps to be flexible, and that traveling on the off-peak can save vacationers plenty of hassle – and money, to boot.

USA Today, for instance, warns consumers against planning to fly on the Wednesday and Friday immediately before and after Thanksgiving; the same goes for the days immediately before and after Christmas and New Year’s.

Instead, experts advise avoiding these busy periods if it suits your travel schedule. Surry tells the New York Times that “it will pay to extend your trip,” meaning traveling a few days before and after the holiday itself, or at mid-week, rather than on a weekend.

Other travel pros advise booking flights for major holidays, if possible. Prices tend to be more reasonable on Christmas, Thanksgiving, or New Year’s Eve, due to lack of demand; for the same reason, travelers can expect airports and roads to be quieter, according to Christie Hudson, the U.S. communications director for Expedia.

Are There Any Tools Out There That Can Help Travelers Save Money?

We’ve noted before that the rise of mobile app culture and the internet have completely revolutionized the travel industry, and the experts agree.

The New York Times encourages consumers to track airfare trends using tools like Hopper, Skyscanner, or Google Flights; U.S. News & World Report also recommends the AirfareWatchdog service.

Be wary, though! Remember the old adage that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be sure to thoroughly research any tool or service that promises to save you money, and don’t hesitate to report odd activity or complaints to the local consumer protection officials for your state.

For more on spotting holiday travel scams, be sure to check out this handy primer from the FTC; the BBB also has a run-down of some common scam tactics – including fake coupons, fraudulent vacation rentals, and hoax travel sites – available here.

A few last bonus tips? U.S. News & World Report encourages travelers to adopt a few practical habits, including being flexible about which airports you take off and land from, avoiding airport parking, and making sure that you don’t have to check any luggage.

What about you? Have any tried-and-true holiday tips or tricks that you think others need to hear? Planning to approach seasonal travel a little bit differently this year? We’d love to hear from you!

Led by Attorney Michael D. Finn with 45 years of experience, the Finn Law Group is a consumer protection firm specializing in timeshare law. Our lawyers understand vacation ownership as well as the many pitfalls of the secondary market of timeshare resales. If you feel you have been victimized by a timeshare company, contact our offices for a free consultation. Know your rights as a consumer and don't hesitate to drop us a line with any questions or concerns. 


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