Credit card in hand, I was poised to buy plane tickets for a post-holiday family trip to the Bahamas, leaving Dec. 27 and returning Jan. 3. I envisioned the four of us attending Christmas Eve service at our home church, spending a traditional Christmas at home by the fire and then … a blissful week of post-holiday snorkeling, basking in the sun and enjoying the quiet beaches of Eleuthera.
As I surfed the Internet looking for plane tickets on Saturday Nov. 1, I was already doing two things right, according to a recent Wall Street Journal story. Conventional wisdom had put Tuesday as the best day for deals, but Airlines Reporting Corp. says Saturday is now the second cheapest day after Sunday to buy airline tickets. Tickets bought on Saturday average $439 compared to $497 for tickets purchased Tuesday. (Sunday’s average was $432.) I also happened to be booking about 57 days before our departure date, rated as the best time — 19 percent cheaper — to buy tickets for holiday travel according to ARC.
But those accidental good moves couldn’t offset the perfect storm driving prices higher: traveling to a warm weather climate in bleak midwinter, flying over the holidays and flying on Saturday each way. Four round-trip tickets (gulp) cost about $1,350 each — right at ARC’s average cost of $1,368 for international tickets — but a bit of a sticker shock for me. It shouldn’t have been a surprise according to what I found out at CheapAir.com — Dec. 27 and Jan. 3 rank among the most expensive days for holiday travel. As I mentally adjusted to the price, the booking sites also urged me to move fast because only a few flights were left.
Instead of quickly jumping to buy those few remaining tickets, I slowed down. I also revised my idea of our Christmas celebration. I checked with the owner of ‘our’ rental home and learned the house was available both before and after our scheduled dates. The generous owner offered additional time at a discounted rate.
I researched alternate travel dates and found flights leaving Monday, Dec. 22 and returning Monday, Jan. 5 for $832 each. I didn’t know it then, but those dates are among the cheapest travel dates, according to CheapAir.com. Tuesday, Jan. 6, Twelfth Night — the traditional end of Christmas season — would be the cheapest day to return home, according to CheapAir.com.
Our savings on airfare: about $2,072. We’d pay $700 more for another week in the house, about $500 for a second week of the rental car and $140 more to board our dog another week. Factor in some money for additional food at higher Eleuthera prices and we’re still ahead — even with a second week of vacation.
So now, we’re looking forward to Eleuthera’s rollicking Christmas parade, attending one of the vibrant churches on the island and singing the Christmas carol “In the Bleak Midwinter” while enjoying 75-degree days and sunshine. We get a second week of vacation and $500 in savings: a Merry Christmas indeed.