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Tips to Save on Holiday Travel in 2015

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As 2016 approaches, there are a lot of reasons to travel. Many flyers are working to earn those last few points and miles to secure elite status for the new year, while others are simply traveling to visit family, friends or vacation destinations.

Last week, I appeared on ABC News’ Nightline (watch the clip above), where I chatted with reporter Kendis Gibson about his experience working toward AA Executive Platinum Status. After a whirlwind mileage run around the US — visiting Anchorage, San Juan and a few destination in between — Kendis thought he had secured his valuable status for the next calendar year. As it turns out, he was still a few hundred points short of his goal even after more than 50 hours of travel time. Luckily, he was able to earn it following a flight later in the month, but if you’re planning similar trips, make sure you’ll earn enough miles or points to earn status before spending a weekend hopping from hub to hub in late December.

If you’re still new to the world of points and miles, a mileage run involves taking a flight for the sole purpose of accruing redeemable miles or working toward elite status. For the most part, you’re stuck on an airplane for the duration of your trip. Flying from New York to Honolulu? Get off the plane, wait a few hours (perhaps take a break in the lounge if you have access) and get back on. No beach, no sun — this is no vacation; travelers work hard to reach their last-minute frequent-flyer goals.

There's still time to book travel for this holiday season. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
There’s still time to book travel for this holiday season. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

That being said, there’s still time to save on airfare even if you’re not going on a year-end mileage run. Here are some tips for saving on airfare this holiday season:

  1. Be flexible on scheduling. With tools like Google Flights, you’ll be able to effectively search for airfare and save on flights by having more control over the different variables that impact prices. If you’re willing to leave a day or two early or travel from a less-favorable airport, you might be able to save a ton on plane tickets.
  2. Consider a low-cost airline. While it may be tempting to stick with the likes of American, Delta or United so you can earn miles or work toward status, it is often cheaper to fly on a budget airline like Spirit and Southwest for domestic flights, and Norwegian or WOW Air for flights to Europe. Remember — the fare is just one part of the total cost. With fees for bags, seats and more, do the math to see what makes the most sense.
  3. Use your points and miles! There’s so much last-minute availability, even at busy travel times like late December, and tickets can get expensive as flights approach.

Ultimately, there are plenty of chances to book reasonably priced last-minute travel for the holidays. You might not be able to get your first choice when it comes to your itinerary, but it’s certainly possible to travel on the cheap if you’re flexible and use all of the tools and options at your disposal.

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