Look, we get it. It’s hard to remember to book your flights for Thanksgiving as early as possible — which is generally accepted as the best way to get the best deals. Day-to-day life can get overwhelming and it’s easy to forget and then BOOM it’s November and Turkey Day is just weeks away.  You may think you’ve missed out on any Thanksgiving travel deals and will have to shell out big bucks to fly. While it’s true that traveling at the last minute can be expensive, especially when it’s one of the busiest seasons for airlines, there are still several ways you can book flights for Thanksgiving at the last minute and still save money. You can use these strategies and secrets altogether or mix and match them based on your needs.

Here are 7 ways to find last-minute Thanksgiving travel deals:

Set Out to Depart Late & Return Early

Most travelers depart for Thanksgiving on the Tuesday or Wednesday before the holiday and then head back on that Sunday or even Monday in some cases.  However, if you are strapped for cash, but still want to visit family for a big dinner, look for flights departing on an early morning Thanksgiving Day (which is by far the cheapest day to fly). Also, instead of returning on that Sunday or Monday, see about flying back with a Friday or Saturday flight. There’s usually lower demand for flights on those days, so ticket prices will likely be lower AND you’ll find fewer people at the airport. It’s a win, win!

Sign up for a Fare Alert

Let’s face it, you’re busy with work, family, and other activities. So the last thing you have time to do is search online and constantly hit refresh to check for drops in airfare on specific last-minute Thanksgiving flights. So instead of banging your head against the computer, let the deals come to you. By signing up for a fare alert, you will get any and all updates on when the fare you want changes in price sent directly to your inbox.

Cash in Your Airline Miles

Do you have any unused airline miles sitting around? Cash them in! While it can be a bit tricky to redeem airline miles around the holiday season, it is definitely not impossible. Just be sure you won’t be charged any extra fees for doing so at the last minute — they could wind up canceling out any savings!

RELATED: 8 Thanksgiving Travel Tips You Need to Know!

Search Alternate Airports for Extra Savings

If the destination you are flying into has more than one airport, check out fares for landing at the smaller or lesser-known one instead. So, for example, if you’re looking to book a flight to Chicago, you could find a cheaper ticket that goes to Midway instead of O’Hare. Not only can find yourself sitting on a cheaper flight with this trick, but having to deal with smaller crowds as well.

Know the Best Times of Day to Fly

Being strategic with the days you pick to travel is one way to save a few dollars. But you can take this a step further if you know the right time to travel too. Just as certain hours are a peak time for airlines with lots of demand to travel by passengers, other hours aren’t and tickets can be cheaper for those times that most passengers don’t want to fly. These times are usually very early or late in the day. Most people don’t want to go through the hassle of going to the airport before dawn OR boarding a plane when they normally go to bed.  So being willing to book either the first flight of the day or a red-eye flight is one of the best ways to save money at the last minute — even on cheap flights for Thanksgiving.

Search for Flights with Layovers to Your Destination

If a direct route to your destination is too pricey, you might be able to find a cheaper ticket on a longer flight that uses the same destination for a layover and you can get off there. So, for example, if you want to fly from Los Angeles to Houston, a flight from Los Angeles to Oklahoma City with a layover in Houston might be cheaper than a flight directly to Houston. You’ll have to do some searching and it requires a bit of luck for there to be a deal. Also, it’s important to remember that since your ticket will be for the longer route, you won’t be able to check baggage since you’re getting off at the layover and not the final destinations.

And while this trick can save you lots of money, it’s not very popular with airlines. So you might not want to do this with any airlines that have frequent flyer programs of which you want to stay a member.

Consider Budget Airlines with Just the Allowed Carry-On & Your Own Amenities

More seasoned travelers tend to shy away from using budget airlines over the holidays. They have a reputation for delays and hidden fees, but they’re usually on time just as much as any other airline and most extra fees can be avoided. So if you’re willing, you can find a last-minute Thanksgiving travel deal on a budget airline — especially if you just have carry-on baggage and your own amenities. Budget airlines often feature low airfares when you’re booking, but after paying the extra fees for things that most legacy airlines included with their bookings — like more than one carry-on bag, checked luggage, food, and inflight entertainment — it can add up to just as much as flying on a legacy airline. But if you plan ahead by packing light and bringing your own snacks and entertainment so you’re not tempted to pay the extra fees, it could be one of the cheapest ways to travel for the holiday season.

Do you have a secret trick to scoring last-minute Thanksgiving travel deals that’s not on this list? Tell us about it in the comments section! 

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