How to Avoid Expensive Holiday Airfares

Reader Question: Can I avoid expensive holiday airfares?

My Answer: Sure, you could do what Dom Beveridge did when he needed to travel with his family from Pittsburgh to Detroit recently. “Prices were ridiculous,” he says. “So we drove.”

True, a five-hour drive isn’t as convenient as a half-hour flight, but with airfares still stubbornly high, the damage adds up quickly, especially if you’re traveling with family. An online calculator such as TravelMath.com can help you run the numbers.

If you still prefer to fly, remember that airlines are basically playing a game of chicken with you before the holidays. As you get closer to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day, they’re raising their fares, hoping you’ll pay a higher price. But if there aren’t enough takers, they slash their rates. To play this game, it helps to track your desired fare using a free service such as Yapta.

Christopher Elliott serves as consumer advocate for National Geographic Traveler and writes the “Problem Solved” column for the magazine. Follow his story on Twitter @elliottdotorg.