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Purchased Airline Tickets for Thanksgiving Vacation

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It has been my tradition over the past few years, I will be traveling to visit my family in California over Thanksgiving. As usual, I waited too long to purchase the airline tickets. I checked prices a few weeks ago, was discouraged by the high rates, and procrastinated even further. A few nights ago, I decided to take a look again, and surprisingly, my waiting paid off.

TurkeyMy search started with SideStep, a very configurable flight search engine. I made some adjustments to the dates and airports, and started to get a good idea of which combinations would save me money. I eventually decided on a round-trip flight with Continental Airlines, leaving the Saturday before and returning the Friday after Thanksgiving. Yes, it’s probably the worst date of the year for traveling, but I’m pretty sure I can handle it. Plus, I’ll have the remainder of the weekend to recover at home before returning to the day job.

I was hoping to pay for the trip using the miles I’ve accumulated over the past few years. Normally that would be possible with 25,000 miles, but unfortunately, the trips around the holiday are more expensive when it comes to using points. However, the price of the round trip flight is about $270 plus taxes and other fees. I believe this is the least expensive coast-to-coast flight I’ve ever purchased.

While my initial search took advantage of SideStep’s features, I always switch over to the airline’s site for buying the tickets. Usually, more options become apparent. For example, there are flights available on Continental’s website that are not available on partner sites like SideStep or Expedia. From what I can tell, the primary reason for this is overbooking. Both flights would not allow me to select my seating preference, which is an indication that the flights are already full and they’re counting on some customers changing their plans.

I was faced with a similar situation last time I visited California, earlier this year. For one direction, my girlfriend and I were able to select our seats online within a week of the flight, and for the return trip, we had to arrive early and hope that some other customer booked for the trip would not show up. A few minutes before liftoff, we were ushered onto the airplane. In that case, there was no option for us to catch a later flight, so it worked out. This time, if I get bumped to a later flight, I have the flexibility.

Image credit: jonwatson

Published or updated October 31, 2007.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

If you are headed to Southern California, always try to fly in/out of Ontario. It’s far less crowded and an easier drive than LAX.

Of course, you could be headed to San Fran for all I know.

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avatar 2 Luke Landes

Vixen: SNA is actually the closest airport to my destination, but the flights to SNA and ONT always seem to be more expensive or involve stop-overs. For me, the hassle of LAX isn’t a big deal, but my opinion just might change after traveling on the day after Thanksgiving.

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avatar 3 Anonymous

I’m still insanely proud of the $245 RT ticket I got from Baltimore to Portland, OR, for Christmas. And Kayak is another good comparison site.

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avatar 4 Anonymous

That has to be one of the best feelings as a financially aware professional…the cheap plane ticket. Congrats on playing your cards right!

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avatar 5 Anonymous

Another website gives predictions about whether the prices are going to go up or down, but the main problem with their algorithm is that it gives prediction on the lowest fare of the day , not your particular flight.

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avatar 6 Anonymous

I use they are similiar to sidestep, but I feel they are much better.

Wed nights are supposedly the best time to get tickets as this is when they do inventory updates (or something like that).

If you want a good ticket for the holidays, you are probably too late. ticket prices are already pushing 4x of what they normally would go for. Seeing me and the Mrs. is going to be the only present my family gets.

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