The Deal Detective is SmarterTravel's resident bargain hunter, Kate Hamman. She's always on the lookout for new travel deals and invites you, dear reader, to submit your own questions.
Now that the pilgrim hats and decorative cornucopias have been carefully packed away until next year, our attention turns to the next holiday quickly approaching. I have received numerous questions about vacation options over Christmas, including where to go, best deals, and last-minute sales. Now I'm not going to lie to you, especially not this close to Santa's big day: Traveling over Christmas typically costs more than other times of the year. You will save quite a bit more by waiting a few weeks and going in early January, but if your heart is set on hitting the road over the holidays—maybe consider it a gift you give yourself—then I am here to help.
There are some things to keep in mind when searching for deals around the holidays. For instance, the first price you see on most sales will more than likely not be the price you get when you add your travel dates and departure city—sadly, it will be higher, so brace yourself. You will also want to check for any blackout dates or valid travel days of the week, as this will also play a factor in your final cost. Lastly, some places also require a minimum night stay, especially during a peak travel time, so be aware of this when deciding where to go.
With all of that in mind, I give you five deals that guarantee a very merry Christmas.
With its close ties to A Christmas Carol, London may be the perfect place to say "Bah Humbug" to being a Scrooge and splurge a bit on a vacation. And Virgin Vacations is making it easy to do just that with its six-night London Fling. The deal starts at just $769 per person (without taxes and fees), and includes round-trip airfare from several departure cities (some cities do not offer flights on December 25), six nights' accommodations, daily breakfast, hotel taxes and service charges, and fuel surcharges. You must book by December 17.
If your favorite part of the holidays is the twinkling Christmas lights, then look no further than Las Vegas, which has lights so bright that the city can probably be seen from space. Southwest Vacations is offering four-night packages to Sin City starting as low as $32 per person, per night (without taxes and fees). The deal includes round-trip airfare from Los Angeles (other departure cities are available for a higher cost); accommodations at a MGM property, such as Mandalay Bay, Luxor, and Mirage; hotel taxes; and first and second checked bags free. Plus, stay three or more nights and receive one free night, or stay four or more nights and receive two free nights. Black-out dates start on December 28 through January 1, so plan your travel dates accordingly. Book by December 3.
Go-today.com invites you to celebrate the holidays in style in the capital of Spain, with its Madrid At Its Best package starting at $899 per person (without taxes and fees) during Christmas. The deal includes round-trip airfare from New York City or Newark (other departure cities available at a higher cost), six nights' accommodations, daily breakfast, hotel taxes and service charges, and fuel surcharges. Book by December 3.
For those of you still undecided on your destination, Funjet is offering holiday savings from a slew of different cities, including Boston, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and Milwaukee, to places like Los Cabos, Jamaica, San Diego, and Puerto Vallarta. Three-night vacations start at $499 per person (without taxes and fees), and include airfare and lodging at an all-inclusive hotel. Travel is valid from December 16 through January 2, but book quickly before the best routes sell out.
Expedia is offering the gift that keeps on giving this year, with its Holiday Kick Back program. Book a vacation package by December 31 for travel before January 3, and you'll receive a $200 coupon to use on a flight and hotel stay of five or more nights before April 30. You must book your stay by March 31. This could pay off if you are planning another trip in the near future, and happen to snag a good deal on your destination.
These are only a few examples of ways to save this Christmas season. Remember that a little patience goes a long way when planning any vacation, but especially one over the holidays. Also, don't forget to read the fine print—it'll save you a few headaches. But more importantly, don't let anything dampen your holiday spirit.
I'm not Santa Claus, but there are days when I wish I had his team of elves to help me find the best deals. This is where you, my dear readers, come in—I know you aren't elves, but you can help in the same way to spread cheer. If you've come across a sale that is too good to pass up, please share with everyone by submitting a comment below.
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