'Tis the Season to Book Holiday Travel

Budget Holiday Travel
Traveling during the holidays can come at a premium, but using these tips can ensure that you'll get the lowest prices for flights during Christmas and New Year's.

First, try booking your flight before Dec. 18. This is generally when you can get the best prices on holiday fares. Specifically, Kayak reports that the cheapest rates have been posted on Dec. 12, 13, 16 and 17 in past years. After these dates, you're likely going to be paying a pretty penny for travel arrangements.

If you have to book later, try to avoid the two most expensive days to fly: the Sundays before Christmas and New Year's Eve. A good way to monitor fluctuating airfare prices is to use the "fare predictor" option on Kayak or Bing. This feature offers estimates on whether the price of a flight will rise or fall based on past data.

If you want a little bit of insurance on your fare, purchase "price protection." Sites like CheapAir.com offer this option so that travelers can get some money back in the event that they purchase a ticket and see a price drop before their date of travel. You won't get the money directly back, but the site will give you a travel voucher for the difference of up to $100 per ticket.

So, if you're planning on getting away for the holidays, keep these tips in mind as you search for fares. The more you save, the more you can spend on gifts for your loved ones.

Tap Credit Card Rewards to Slash Your Holiday Gift Bill
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'Tis the Season to Book Holiday Travel -- Savings Experiment

And, now, with the election over at last, Americans can shift their focus to something a little less stressful: Holiday shopping.

And if you're looking for a way to save on gifts this season, you might want to tap your credit card. No, not by charging up a big fat bill -- but by maximizing your rewards points.

Here are six ways to do just that and in turn, stretch your gift-giving budget.

Check out American Express' (AXP) Membership Rewards catalog, where you'll find discounts on a range of gifts: from Dell notebooks and TUMI luggage to Michael Kors handbags and iPads.

Citi's Thank You Rewards App allows cardholders to download an app and shop in store at Best Buy (BBY). Shoppers can scan the item they want in store, see if they've earned enough points to make a purchase, pay with those points and leave the store with the merchandise.

Chase Ultimate Rewards members can get cash back via check or direct deposit starting at $20 for 2,000 points by shopping via the Ultimate Rewards Mall, featuring retailers such as J.C. Penney (JCP), The Body Shop and Staples (SPLS), among others. Or, use your points to pay yourself back for anything you've bought with your Ultimate Rewards in the last 60 days.

Consider buying all your gift cards via your credit card rewards. Most credit card rewards programs work on a 1 point to 1 cent ratio, so racking up 2,500 Points can earn you a $25 gift card.

The American Express Rewards card requires even fewer points to earn a gift card.

Capital One's (COF) Venture Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards cards let shoppers donate points to a range of charities such as UNICEF, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and local Toys for Tots chapters, in addition to colleges and universities.

Amazon.com now allows holders of the Amazon (AMZN) Rewards Visa card, American Express Membership Rewards card, Chase (JPM) Ultimate Rewards card and Discover (DFS) Cashback Bonus card to pay for an order using their credit card points.

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