Tips on Holiday Travel, Shopping from Niagara University Experts

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City is the starting gun to a typically frantic travel and shopping season. Experts offer some tips on how to save money and anxiety © Karen Rubin/

With the holiday season upon us, Niagara University, New York experts share their tips on topics from travel to Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping and holiday food staples (which are up in price as much as 20 percent).

Purchasing Airline Tickets –  If you are planning to fly for Thanksgiving, it would have been wise to book by Labor Day. But, between now and one week before Thanksgiving there are still savings to be had. According to Dr. Zongqing Zhou, Professor and President of the International Society of Travel and Tourism Educators, all airlines now use “yield management” computer programs to forecast demand. Therefore, prices often fluctuate based on forecast demands. If you do need a last- minute deal, consider departing on Thanksgiving Day and returning on Monday, November 26th. For next year, it’s advisable to book between mid-August and Labor Day. Waiting until the very last minute means paying top dollar in most cases.

Getting to the Plane – Most everyone knows to allow extra time, especially at this time of year. Thanksgiving eve is the most traveled day of the year. Dr. Youngsoo Choi, Associate Dean & Associate Professor, College of Hospitality & Tourism Management, suggests you go a step further. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has an excellent phone app, MYTSA, which is updated regularly. It allows you to check your flight status or security wait time via your phone. Also, the TSA Pre-Check membership for $85 that expires after 5 years is well worth it!  TripItTripCase, and Seat Guru are additional apps (Android, iOS) that perform similar functions that may also be helpful. If you’re waiting for a delayed flight, try LoungeBuddy. It helps you find airport lounges in more than 500 airports worldwide. Lastly, remember to travel light. To avoid checking bags, take a carry-on only, though that can mean overhead compartments will be cramped. Even so, using them will save time.

By Train – Since the pandemic, Amtrak ridership is down considerably, but it will ramp up during the holidays. It’s still best to get to the station early and be prepared for lines at security checkpoints. Have your photo ID handy and, at busier stations like New York’s Penn Station and Washington, D.C.’s Union Station, expect random security checks. The Amtrak app, AMTRAK, generally receives good reviews and offers online booking, trip information, texts for departure and arrival times. Best of all, discounts are offered to regular travelers. Scoring discounted tickets on Amtrak for Thanksgiving is not nearly as easy as purchasing plane tickets, due to a lack of competition. According to Dr. Choi, there are a few ways to find discount tickets with Amtrak. Join Amtrak Guest Rewards, a free loyalty program. Promotions come directly to your inbox and points are earned each time you travel. For many Amtrak routes, there is a 7 to 14 day advance purchase discount, allowing you to save 20% or more off the lowest available fares.

Road Trips – Dr. Youngsoo Choi has good news for those planning to drive to visit friends and family during the upcoming holiday season, gas prices have come down from this summer’s highs. Travelers will certainly save money traveling by car, but there’s always the chance Mother Nature will get in the way. The AAA estimates that some 42.2 million people will travel at least 50 miles over the four-day Thanksgiving holiday. So, if you’re driving, brace yourself for some serious traffic, and the potential for extremely bad weather. It’s important to plan your route ahead of time and make sure you have a GPS system or a phone app like WAZE. These offer traffic and other real time route information. Finally, E-ZPass will save you time at the toll booths – for those states that still have them!

Shopping: Many consumers are eager to find the best Black Friday deals possible. But is fighting the crowds worth it? While the deals may appear to be great, NU economics professor emeritus, Tenpao Lee, Ph.D., warns against the assumption that the day after Thanksgiving is the best one for low prices. Retailers will have multiple “huge sale” days between now and December 25th, despite the Black Friday and Cyber Monday come-ons. Indeed, Dr. Lee says there’s no need to rush away from Thanksgiving dinner to go shopping, even if some retailers are open on the holiday. Costco will again be closed, as will Macy’s, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Target, T.J. Maxx, Kohl’s, J.C. Penney, B.J.’s, Bed, Bath & Beyond and Best Buy. The caveat, though, is item availability. While post-pandemic shortages remain, it’s not as serious as last year and gifts will not be as hard to find for 2022. But, with hot items, like certain toys, video games and electronic items, there are always issues in different parts of the country.

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