By the way, connecting flights may not be worth the frayed nerves if traveling with young children, and never allow a child fly alone on anything but a direct flight.
Create an Airport and Strategy
For small town flyers: Avoid the temptation to fly out of your local airport; better to drive to the nearest metropolis. One of my colleagues, then living in Idaho Falls, Idaho, used to routinely make the 200 mile trip to Salt Lake City to save $200 or so on flights back east.
Fly on the Cheapest Day of the Holiday Season
Four little words that will save you plenty: Fly on the holiday -- yes, Thanksgiving day (Nov. 24) and Christmas day (Dec. 25). Prices drop because no one wants to fly then, but if you can grab an early plane, you won't miss much of the festivities and you'll zip through security in that empty airport. Compare prices on holidays with airfares of just a day or two earlier and you may be persuaded.
Skimp on Other Travel Costs
Wear that heavy reindeer sweater to make room in that carryon you'll use to save the $50 bag fee. Or fly JetBlue or Southwest for the free bags. And this year, search out public transportation options to get you to and from the airport; you'll save on parking costs and taxis.
Tip: Holidays are no time for experimentation; if you've never ridden an airport bus before, do a test run before Thanksgiving or grill a friend who uses them routinely. If you miss your holiday flight, there may be no empty seats on later planes.
And once again, do not procrastinate. Hey, it may be hot outside but leave that mai-tai poolside while you hit an airfare search site. Thanksgiving and Christmas will be here before you know it and there's no sense spending all your money on airfare when you haven't even hit the mall yet.