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How to save money and score rewards on holiday travel

55 million people to travel this Thanksgiving despite elevated costs of flights and gas
The holiday travel season is upon us, and it’s already late in the game to book trips and make reservations. But there are still ways to save on flights and hotels, as well as earn rewards for future travel savings, for those who are willing to be flexible.
If you want to travel for the holidays and you haven’t already booked a trip, don’t wait in hopes of snagging a last-minute deal, experts advise.
Demand is strong and prices are high due in part to the “revenge travel” trend of Americans doubling down on getting away and taking the trips that they put off because of the pandemic.
“We are expecting a very busy holiday travel season. There is really strong demand despite the fact that prices are high, and we are encouraging people to act quickly,” said Melanie Lieberman, an editor at The Points Guy, a travel website. “If you haven’t booked yet, don’t wait any longer.”
There were some bargains available for holiday travel dates, but that was during the summer. For example, roundtrip tickets to the Bahamas over Christmas were as cheap as $250.
“That was the reward for the early bird,” said Scott Keyes, founder of flight aggregator Scott’s Cheap Flights. “For folks who put off booking until November, I wish I had better news, but it’s putting yourself in a pretty difficult position.”
Be flexible
Travelers who are flexible about their departure and return dates — and even their destinations — will have the most success locking in good deals.
Hybrid and remote work allow employees to take longer trips and push their return dates past the busiest travel days of the year and into the early part of January.
“The best way to unlock savings is to be flexible with the date you leave, the date you return or the duration of your stay. Travelers have gotten creative by extending trips and taking advantage of flexibility with working remotely,” Lieberman said. “Extending trips and avoiding traveling on those peak days and peak prices as well.”
Americans who haven’t already made plans for Thanksgiving week will have a hard time getting to just about anywhere in the U.S. But it’s a great time to travel to Europe and other foreign destinations, industry insiders say.
“It’s the best week of the entire year for international travel,” Keyes said. “Everyone is traveling domestically, it’s such a popular time to fly home, and everyone traveling domestically isn’t traveling internationally.”
In fact, as of this week it was cheaper to fly from New York to Milan, Italy, than to Wichita, Kansas, in the U.S., according to Keyes.
Let the destination choose you
Keyes encourages travelers to be open-minded about where they go and to let ticket prices dictate their destinations.
“If you have the time off and your kids are out of school, the best strategy to get a cheap flight is to keep your options open. Rather than take the normal approach where you decide where to go and on which dates, look at costs and then decide which option is most interesting,” Keyes said.
He acknowledged it’s a little bit of a backward approach that might not work for everyone.
“It’s not intuitive, because people dream about the destination, not the flight there,” he said.
But being open-minded will serve many consumers well.
“We often put blinders on and set our heart on one destination and hope the fare turns out well. Often the best strategy is to let the deal decide where you’re going and that is especially true during peak travel periods, and especially if you’re booking it last minute,” Keyes added.
Use a search engine like Google Flights to scan options by entering your origin airport. Your destination can be as broad as an entire continent.
Book through the airline
While online travel sites like can be helpful while exploring alternatives, it’s always wise to purchase your flight tickets and reserve hotels directly through the airline operator or hotel.
The fare is often the same, and you cut out the middleman. If your flight is delayed or cancelled, it’s easier to make changes directly through the airline, as opposed to having to rely on a third party.
Earning and burning rewards
It’s worth considering how you pay for your holiday trip in order to shell out as little as possible and also earn maximum rewards.
“There are two sides to this — the earning rewards and redeeming, or burning rewards,” said Ted Rossman, credit card analyst at
First, take stock of any unused points or miles you’ve already accumulated
“You could be sitting on value you forgot about,” Rossman said.
It’s likely too late to sign up for a travel rewards credit card that will earn you enough miles to pay for a trip this calendar year. But if future travel is on the horizon, it could be worth exploring a credit card that offers generous travel rewards to redeem for a trip next spring or summer.
“In general anytime you have a big spending spike, it is worth considering,” Rossman said.



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