Plan ahead now to save big money on holiday travel

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Everyone wants their money to go as far as possible. And if you’re planning a faraway trip, we have some financial advice. The biggest tip for “stretching your travel dollar” is to plan sooner rather than later.

Holiday airfare is likely not going to drop this year, so procrastinators will not be rewarded with low ticket prices at the very last minute.

“You can spend less on flights if you book for domestic flights at least six weeks prior to departure and 14 weeks prior to a flight internationally. So on average, that’s when you’ll get the best price,” said Melisa Keiser of Carmel Travel Company.

The next tip comes from a traveler we found at the Indianapolis International Airport.

“We’ll do ‘plus or minus’ especially with the kids not being in high school anymore. They’re in college so we can move that schedule around more than what we have in the past,” said Tom Cates.

Travel experts said Cates is right on the money. On almost all airline or travel websites, you can type in your preferred date, and then check the “plus or minus 1 to 3 day box.” The price difference can be significant.

“If you can slide your vacation forward or backwards a couple days, you might save some money,” Keiser said. “What’s really important is the day of the week you travel on. Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturdays you’ll find the lowest prices.”

Another tip is not to be in such a hurry. Nonstop flights are great, but you often pay a premium for such convenience. Comparing the cost of connecting flights with nonstop could save hundreds of dollars depending on your route.

Another idea may not be ideal, but it can save you money. Try flying on holidays themselves, such as Christmas or Thanksgiving, because airports will be virtually empty and you’ll have your choice of flights.

One more way to save money and time is to steer clear of delays by avoiding connections in winter weather cities for holiday travel. You may end up going out of your way to reach your destination, but you could end up saving time by avoiding flight delays or cancellations.

And the final tip: know which day to buy your ticket.

“Someone told me Tuesday is a good day to search, so we’ve done that before,” said traveler Lisa Cates.

She’s correct. The optimal time to buy tickets is Tuesday at 3 p.m. In general terms, it’s typically better to shop midweek than on a weekend, as airlines pull discounted fares before the weekend.