March 1, 2024

Welcome to NerdWallet’s Smart Money podcast.

This week’s episode starts with a discussion about why Black Friday is dead.

Then we host a roundtable discussion with Travel Nerds about how you can find the best holiday travel deals this year.

Check out this episode on any of these platforms:

Our take on Black Friday

The term “Black Friday” has lost some of its meaning as one of the biggest days for consumer shopping, since it’s now possible to find deep discounts throughout the holiday season — and even earlier. Major retailers like Amazon, Target and Walmart posted early Black Friday deals in October, and Amazon’s Prime Day in July featured some of the lowest prices on certain items for the whole year.

With so many major sale days scattered throughout the calendar, you don’t need to wait until the day after Thanksgiving to begin holiday shopping. If you decide to buy gifts throughout the year, keep track of every purchase, its price and the recipient, to stay on budget. Compare prices, too: Amazon isn’t always the cheapest option.

Our take on holiday travel

Air travel continues to recover from low levels seen at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. But as airlines struggle to keep up with the increased demand, holiday travelers can expect delays, clogged airports and cancellations. To deal with some of these inevitable hiccups, get to the airport well before your departure time.

The TSA PreCheck program will probably save you time in the security line, but it’s not free. Do a quick run-through of the credit cards in your wallet. Some travel credit cards reimburse the PreCheck application fee — and give cardholders access to airport lounges where travelers can wait out delays in style. Some cards also offer travel insurance that protects you in the event of flight cancellations or lost bags, among other things. You could also purchase travel insurance that covers up to a full year of travel.

For the cheapest prices on flights, book as early as possible, and look for a flight that can be canceled for a low fee. If the fare drops, you can cancel your original flight and rebook the same reservation. Another money saver: being strategic about your travel dates. For example, departures on Christmas Eve are generally cheaper compared to flights Dec. 21-23.

Also make sure to be strategic about using points or miles versus paying cash for tickets. You can use a calculator to understand the points or miles to dollars tradeoff. Note that miles and points can expire or lose value, and you might want to preserve cash for other uses.

Our tips

  • Plan ahead. Booking early can help you find lower fares.
  • Be nice. It’s probably not the gate agent’s fault that your flight was delayed or canceled. Being courteous may also increase the odds that the agent will help you find another flight.
  • Be flexible. If your schedule allows, be flexible with your dates when booking flights. And go with the flow if your flight is delayed or canceled.

Have a money question? Text or call us at 901-730-6373. Or you can email us at [email protected]. To hear previous episodes, go to the podcast homepage.

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