Deals of the Week: Save on Thanksgiving and Christmas Travel

Here's how you can grab juicy discounts on holiday flights, car rentals and hotels

I just finished booking our family’s travel plans to Paris for Thanksgiving. Since it’s more than 30 days from our departure date, we scored great airfares and hotel rates. If you’re preparing to make reservations for Thanksgiving or the December holidays, here are a few ways to get the most bang for your travel buck:
Cheap Flights for Thanksgiving
Smartmoney.com recently noted that the least expensive days to fly around Thanksgiving this year will be on Thanksgiving itself (Thursday, Nov. 22) and the following Saturday, Nov. 24. I just put that claim to the test and found it to be absolutely true.
When I searched for flights from the New York City area to Orlando, Fla., using those dates, I turned up a Jet Blue round-trip itinerary costing $347.60 — about 34 percent less than the $520.60 fare for leaving a day earlier and returning a day later. Similarly, a trip from Chicago’s Midway airport to Denver on Southwest would cost $153 for a Nov. 22-24 trip, compared with $248 (62 percent more) flying Nov. 21 and returning Nov. 25.
(MORE: Take Your Dream Culinary Vacation Now!)
By the way, if you plan to fly Southwest, I recommend using its Low-Fare Calendar to find the airline’s cheapest flights.
Affordable Weekend Car Rentals
Interested in renting a car for a holiday road trip? You can save big time with the Weekend Specials from Enterprise Rent a Car, as long as you rent the car at one of the company’s 5,500 non-airport locations. Enterprise will even pick you up.
A Friday-to-Sunday economy or compact car rental will cost only $9.99 per day, a huge discount from Enterprise’s standard $20 to $35 day rate. (You’d pay $14.99 a day for an intermediate car, $17.99 for a standard and $19.99 for a full size.) The Weekend Specials run through May 2013.
Hotel Discounts if You’re Over 50
At a handful of hotels, hitting the half-century mark means discounted lodging — and you don't need a special membership to reap these rewards.
For example, Homewood Suites by Hilton gives a 10 percent discount to guests over 50 through Dec. 31. Pacifica Hotel Company, with 24 California boutique properties in places like San Diego, Santa Barbara and San Francisco, also offers 10 percent off if you’re 50-plus with no expiration date.
But my favorite hotel bargain is the quirky birth-year deal from the chichi Westin Resort and Casino in Aruba. When you book a two- or three-night stay for travel before Dec. 6, arriving Sunday through Friday, and pay at least $459 for your first night, you’ll receive the second and third nights at rates equal to the last two digits of your birth year. So if you were born in 1952, you’ll pay $52.
Who says it pays to be young?

Leah Ingram
By Leah Ingram
Leah Ingram is a health, lifestyle and frugal-living writer and the author of Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier and Healthier on Less. She is also founder of the money-saving blog, Suddenly Frugal, and writes for magazines and websites including Good Housekeeping and Parade.com.@suddenlyfrugal

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