Thanksgiving 2014: 10 Ways to Find Cheap Flights

Thanksgiving Flights“How can I find a cheap flight?” is one of the most common questions I get – especially around the Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays. I feel like saying, “don’t you remember what I told you last year and the year before?” Hello?! Strategies don’t change that much – just the dates and possibly some websites/apps.

Instead of losing my voice and mind, I created this guide so I can just send them to my website.

Just like last year, the airlines are expecting to have full planes over the holidays. But don’t sweat — if you haven’t bought your tickets yet you will be happy to know that I haven’t either. And I’m not that worried because I always have a few tricks up my sleeve on how to save money.

Thanksgiving 2014: 10 Ways to Find Cheap Flights

1. Be flexible
The key to finding cheap Thanksgiving flights is to be flexible with your days. If you aren’t flexible, then you aren’t going to get a deal. It’s not that difficult to figure out that the most expensive time to fly is when everyone else is too. For example, I bet you want to leave the Wednesday (November 26) before Thanksgiving and return on the Sunday (November 30) or early morning on the Monday (December 1) after. Am I right? You aren’t going to get a deal on those days since the airlines have no incentive so you should just stop trying and if you aren’t flexible then stop reading this right now.

Deals are going to be either the week before or the Sunday or Monday before (depending on the destination), Thanksgiving Day (November 27) and returning on Friday (November 28) or the following Tuesday (December 2) or better yet Wednesday (December 3) after turkey day. To prove my point I ran a flexible search on ITA Software (below) for round-trip non-stop flights from New York to Miami for a four night stay and you can see which days are the cheapest to travel.

1 NY to Miami

Keep in mind the airlines are expecting the busiest days to be Sunday, November 30, and Monday, December 1. The best day to fly will be Thanksgiving Day (November 27).

2. Consider the time of day
Everyone wants to leave after work and school so when doing your flight search don’t put a specific time. Generally, the most expensive times to fly are peak business travel hours (8 to 10 am and 5 to 7 pm). Cheaper seats tend to depart early in the morning (5 to 7 am) or late in the evening (after 8 pm). NOTE: By leaving early in the morning you have the best chance of not getting delayed.

3. Alternate airports
Not only do you want to be flexible with dates and times but be flexible with airports too. For example, rather than flying into (or out of) Miami when going to South Florida, check out Fort Lauderdale Airport (FLL) — it’s 25 miles north and usually much cheaper. You can also check out West Palm Beach, which is another 49 miles away. To help you with all the major U.S. alternative airports (by actual driving miles), I created a website called AlternateAirports.com. To see what I’m talking about, see the flexible search for flights from NYC to FLL below.

2 NYC - FLL

4. Consider making a stop
Sometimes booking a flight that has a connection as opposed to flying nonstop can save you money. But you have to ask yourself if it’s really worth it. If it’s hundreds of dollars then yes, but if it’s just $20 do you really want to increase your chances of getting delayed or stuck? And be sure to avoid making connections in airports that have a terrible on-time track record like San Francisco, Chicago O’Hare or all of New York’s airports. Here’s a link to an airport and airline scorecard to help you make a good decision.

5. Search tools
Everyone knows there’s not one website out there that has the absolute cheapest price for airfares, hotels, car rentals, cruises and package deals so the trick is to do your research and check them all to see who has the best deal at that moment in time. That’s one of the reasons why I created JohnnyJet.com to begin with.

We now have a new search engine (below) where all you have to do is input your city pairs and dates and click check rates. Six windows will open up as they simultaneously search a variety of travel websites like Expedia, Priceline and TripAdvisor. It not only saves you time but money. Check it out for yourself!

6. Sign up for flight alerts
If you don’t want to constantly manually check airfares (As I like to for some insane reason) then sign up for fare alerts. Many sites offer this service for free including Airfarewatchdog.com, Kayak, Yapta.com and FareCompare.com. Here’s a chart that compares the leading airfare alert sites.

7. Use frequent flier miles or credit card points
It’s almost impossible to use your airline frequent flier miles during the holidays unless you are flexible with dates or are willing to use double or triple the usual amount. I don’t recommend the latter but two years ago I used 12,500 American miles to fly from Toronto to Los Angeles the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. If I left Sunday or Monday before it was double.

8. Speak to a human
You never know if an airline representative can find a better deal but in my experience, it’s usually only worth it (most charge a $25 fee) when booking a mileage award ticket since they can check partner airlines and alternate cities much quicker. To get in touch with your airline I created AirlineNumbers.com that lists all of the airline’s phone numbers and websites. To bypass the airlines’ annoying and time consuming automated prompts, log on to GetHuman.com.

9. Consult a travel agent
As you can see, bargain hunting can be a time-consuming process but it can pay off big time especially if you are traveling with multiple people. If you don’t want to spend the time and energy then call a travel agent and pay their fee, which can be $25 or more. I check with mine but usually only on international flights since sometimes he has different inventory than the travel sites. To give you an example, once I was flying from London to Bangkok and everything I was finding online was over $1,000. I called my travel agent and he found a flight on Etihad through Abu Dhabi for $550. It was well worth the $25 fee.

10. Hidden cities
This hidden city trick is against airline policy so you didn’t learn it from me. But — once I needed to get to Cleveland from L.A. and a nonstop one-way ticket was $600. I took my own advice and searched alternate airports and when I found a ticket to Buffalo for only $230 I noticed the flight first stops in Cleveland ON THAT SAME EXACT $600 flight. I know it makes no sense since Buffalo is farther from Cleveland and you have to take two flights instead of one but that’s the airlines for you. If I wanted to break airline policy I could’ve just gotten off in Cleveland and let my connecting ticket to BUF go to waste. But if I did that I would’ve bought a one-way ticket, made sure not to check bags or put in my mileage account number. Remember I’m not recommending this and if you do it a lot you WILL get caught.

So there you have it … I feel like you have just turned me upside down and shook all the tricks out of me. I hope this guide helps you find cheap Thanksgiving flights and more importantly, motivates you to spend the holidays with the ones you love.

To a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

“Please note that JohnnyJet.com has financial relationships with some of the merchants mentioned here. JohnnyJet.com may be compensated if consumers choose to utilize the links located throughout the content on this site and generate sales for the said merchant.”

Johnny Jet

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About the Author

Johnny Jet
I used to be afraid to fly and at times even leave the house! I conquered my fear (long story) and now I travel to 20+ countries a year sharing my firsthand knowledge, tips and deals with friends, family and readers. Please sign up to our free newsletters and tell your friends!

5 Comments on "Thanksgiving 2014: 10 Ways to Find Cheap Flights"

  1. I am new to this site and I think you are smart and entertaining! The advice is terrific and you write very well. I came across your wedding trip to Budapest and your recent trip to Toronto made it even better for this Hungarian-Canadian!
    Keep up the great work!

  2. Netrate Concepts

    Just went through this mess the other week going from bgr to lax cross country literally mon was the best day by far but that doesnt work for my schedule. FYI all the northeast airports were relatively the same price more or less for the same times BOS MHT PWM PVD BDL ALB and a lot further for me to drive FYI its about 1k r/t. Took your advice and used an agent from Netrate Concepts and they were able to get me the best price and least amount of flying time and layovers as possible………..thanks for your advice

  3. I love finding bargains, but right now I am overwhelmed trying to find a cheap (or an affordable one) after Christmas but before the New Year. I don’t mind flying on the main holidays (which I find are the cheapest), but my husband has major issues with that! I’ve been looking everyday (ATL to SAN for 12/26/14 -01/02/15) but they just seem to be going up!! What can I do?!

  4. Nice post!

    Keep writing and goodluck. ;)

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