Last Minute Holiday Travel Tips

by Guest Writer

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The following is a sponsored post for Chase Sapphire Preferred

By Travel Expert Chris McGinnis

Haven’t booked your holiday trip? Traveling with the children during the holiday season? Travel expert Chris McGinnis provides tips and tricks to find the best last minute travel deals, avoid common airport pitfalls and make the money you spend on travel work for you.

What tips do you have for moms traveling with kids over the holiday season?

If you are traveling with toddlers, try to book nonstop flights to avoid frustrating plane changes in distant airports. If you must, try to book through a hub city and choose a southern route, stopping over in fair weather cities like Phoenix, Houston or Atlanta instead of chancing a snowstorm in Chicago or Denver.

What advice do you have for booking last minute holiday travel for families?

Flying during the holidays means paying a premium of anywhere from 30% to 70% compared to other times of year - especially on long haul flights, according to FareCompare.com.

If you are flexible, consider celebrating with your family during “dead weeks” instead. Dead weeks are travel industry lingo for the annual low points in travel demand, which ironically come in the middle of the peak holiday travel season.  Take advantage of the next dead week which falls right after the Christmas/New Year’s rush in early January.  The amount you’ll pay in airfare can be slashed by half…or more!

What are some travel saving tips most people don't know about?

Let’s face it, you’ll be breaking out the credit card - a lot - when traveling, especially during the upcoming holiday season. You might as well be using a card that’s going to pay you back in points and other benefits. For example, I just signed up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which offers two points for every dollar spent on travel and dining.

Since this is the holidays…and I have several trips booked between now and the end of the year… I’ll end up with at least 50,000 points (sign-on bonus plus two points per dollar spent on travel and dining) and that is enough for two no-blackout-date airline tickets (when booked through www.ultimaterewards.com), which I’ll likely use NEXT year to avoid paying high prices to fly home during the peak holiday season. So if you’ve been sitting on the fence about getting a new card, doing so during the heavy-spending holidays is a smart and strategic move.

Insider tip: If your flight is cancelled (not simply delayed) due to weather and you decide not to take the trip at all - you can get a full refund (not just a voucher) from the airline.

What can parents, especially moms, do to ease the stress of holiday travel?

Why burden the in-laws with the hassle of houseguests during the already stressful holidays? Instead of bunking on that lumpy sofa bed or stuffy guest room, book a nearby hotel.

Plus, most hotels discount rates heavily during the holidays due to low demand from business travelers. Seize the opportunity to experience a five-star hotel at a two or three star price!

Insider Tip: Call the hotel directly and try to negotiate a deal or checkout the new smartphone app, Hotel Tonight, for great last minute hotel deals.

Where are the best value destinations for a family trip this winter?

Utah: If you are looking for an affordable ski trip the entire family can enjoy, consider flying to Salt Lake City, which often offers more affordable airfare than Park City. Plus, if you fly into Salt Lake City in the morning and bring your boarding pass to any of Park City’s four ski resorts on the same day, you will receive a free lift pass for your first day on the slopes!

Florida: If you prefer a warmer climate for your family’s winter trip, hotel rates and airfare to Orlando, Jacksonville, Tampa, Tallahassee and Pensacola drop in January and February. While you may not be able to sunbathe, you can still enjoy local seafood, gorgeous sunsets and long walks on the beach. The winter months are also the cheapest time of year for the family to enjoy nearby attractions such as Walt Disney World and SeaWorld.


About Chris McGinnis:
Over the last 20 years, Chris has offered his special blend of practical tips and advice to travelers as editor of The Frequent Travel Advisor blog on the San Francisco Chronicle website, SFgate.com, and a publisher of two popular travel blogs, The TICKET and The BAT. He's the author of two books about business travel and frequently appears on television, radio or online to offer advice to those seeking the wisdom of the road warrior. To learn more about Chris, visit www.travelskills.com.

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