The temperatures have dropped and most of us are counting the days to our winter vacations. But for those who didn't lock in their flights months ago, they're likely looking at steep prices. For example, last year I used to pay around $130 for a last-minute, one-way ticket from LAX to JFK. Now that same flight is costing two to four times that. Why?
At the height of the financial crisis the airlines consolidated, consequently parking their planes in the desert to cut costs. Now the economy is bouncing back and those few seats are in high demand so the airlines can charge more.
But don't worry. There's still a way around high-priced tickets.
Be flexible. Traveling during the holidays is inevitably pricy and frustrating. Be flexible. If you are looking for a last-minute deal over the Christmas holidays, try flying on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve. You can save hundreds of dollars. The same goes for New Year's Eve. During winter break, consider flying either before or after the busiest travel days. Mid-week is ideal.
Alternate airports. Try to be flexible with your departure times and airports. Don't just enter in your desired times when doing an airfare search. Instead, see what the system gives you. You may not mind that 6am flight if it saves you a few hundred dollars. Also, look into alternate airports. For example, when I fly to South Florida, instead of going into Miami, I check fares for Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach as well. The same goes for New York. Don't just look at flights into JFK. Check out flights into LaGuardia or Newark or even White Plains. A short drive might save you a lot of money.
Package deals. Get a package deal. Don't just buy your air, hotel and car separately. Look at package deals. Believe it or not, sometimes the airfare alone is cheaper just by bundling extras together. Even if you don't need a place to stay or want your own wheels, always price out a package deal. You can always discard the hotel or car vouchers.
Renting a house. Another great way to save? Consider renting a house. I recently attended a conference in Orlando and thought I was getting a good deal at a four-star hotel for $135 a night. But I later discovered that friends of mine rented a whole house (four bedrooms and a pool) for $450 for the week. And the place was sweet!
Around-the-world tickets. If you're going on a long international flight, price out an around-the-world ticket. That's right! Sometimes an around-the-world trip works out to be cheaper than a round-trip ticket to, say Asia/Australia or even Europe.
Search your favorite social media sites. I'm a huge fan of social networks. A lot of airlines and hotels now offer either Twitter- or Facebook-only deals. Follow your favorites to see what they're offering.
Ship ahead. If you're traveling with a lot of luggage, you can save money by shipping your luggage ahead of you. Or, fly with Southwest Airlines -- they allow two pieces of checked luggage for free. The other airlines charge anywhere between $15 and $35 and that adds up, especially when traveling with a family. When flying domestically, go to FedEx or UPS and ship your luggage or packages by ground. It takes about five days so plan ahead. But what's nice about this option is that you don't even need to box your baggage up. They will ship it as is.
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