I know, I know, it’s still summer. But it’s already time to start planning for the holidays, especially if your holidays involve travel by air. Thanksgiving is 14 weeks away. In airline speak, it’s just around the corner. That also means Christmas is just 18 weeks away.
Planning Thanksgiving Travel
You don’t have to book your flights now, but you should plan to book them in early September before flights start selling out.
Research Airfare Prices
What you can do now is research current fares to get a feeling for average prices. You could save some money if you can travel Tuesday through Monday rather than the more popular Wednesday through Sunday, but you’ll need to coordinate your travel schedules and confirm you have enough vacation time for three days rather than one. Use Farecast.com to see whether prices to your destination are likely to rise or fall in the near future. Sign-up at Yapta.com to track prices by email. Then book directly with the airline to save money.
You may also need to submit a time-off request now to secure your dates if you’ll need extra vacation time beyond the usual Thursday/Friday office closures.
Research Hotels and Car Rentals
Most hotels and car rentals won’t book up until a month or two before Thanksgiving, but start investigating local reviews, tracking down discounts through your memberships, or finding out whether you can stay with friends or family.
Make Restaurant Reservations
If you typically eat at a restaurant on Thanksgiving, you may actually want to make the reservation now, or at least by late September. The best seatings at the best restaurants tend to book up fast.
Planning Christmas Travel
You definitely have time left to book Christmas travel. Unlike Thanksgiving, there isn’t a rush on one particular day of the Christmas season. They’re all busy. However, this year might be an exception because Christmas falls on a Friday, which means people who have to work on Monday will want to fly back Sunday.
Book Awards Travel Now
If you want to use miles to travel for Christmas, book it now. Already the most popular dates are filling up. Be prepared to be flexible in your dates or spend more miles if you have specific travel dates.
Research Airfare Prices
If you’re paying for your flights, start researching the best travel times and prices now, but wait to book. Fares often come down in the fall and winter, so you could see some reductions. However, there are fewer fights and more people competing for seats as the airlines cut costs, so don’t wait too long.
Request Time Off
Submit time off requests as soon as possible. Christmas is one of the most popular times of year to take vacation and some employers have policies restricting the number of people who can take time off at once. If your company has this type of policy, make sure you submit your request early.
Make Special Reservations
One year, my mom decided to take my sister and me into the city for high tea, but we called the hotel only to discover they’d been booked solid for a month. If you plan to attend any special events around the holiday season, find out if reservations are required and make them now to ensure you’ll be able to enjoy them.
It’s a drag to start thinking about the holidays already, but you’ll be thankful when you score a great travel deal and have your plans sewn up while your friends and co-workers are scrambling to make theirs at the last minute. The holiday season is supposed to be about peace – so do the stressful stuff now and be peaceful this Thanksgiving and Christmas.