The holidays can be a hectic time of the year for everyone: buying gifts, making elaborate meals, preparing your home for family. Traveling can sometimes be one of the most stressful components of the holiday season and may be made easier by booking in advance. There are a few reasons to stop procrastinating and book holiday travel now so you can focus on spending time with family come Christmas and New Year’s.

While the “best” time to book a holiday ticket is something of a moving target, it’s often the case that if you wait to book holiday travel at the last minute, it will may cost more than doing so several weeks in advance. This concept applies especially to booking travel around popular holidays like Christmas and New Year’s Day, where prices may already inflated. So, if you can solidify your holiday travel plans early by booking flights, trains and buses now, you can maximize your potential for savings.

As a rule of thumb, you may want to check a flight aggregator before booking directly with an airline. Flight aggregators allow travelers to input itinerary information like dates and cities, and the aggregator will pull together flight information from a number of different airlines to help you find the best deal for your situation. You can also input various dates, times, connecting cities, etc. to see which of the variables gives you the best flight for your needs.

In cases where you’re paying with points or miles that are connected to a specific provider, an aggregator may not help much — except for suggesting airlines and date combinations you may not have noticed by looking only at a single carrier. However, if you’re booking with cash or credit, using an aggregator may result in the most affordable or schedule-friendly deal…if you plan early.

Getting Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses

Some credit cards offer cash, point or airline mile bonuses when a new cardholder spends a certain amount of money within a given time frame after they first receive the card.

Because these sign-up bonuses typically require several thousand dollars in spend over the first two to three months, according to NerdWallet, signing up for a new credit card before a large expense — like booking a major trip — may effectively cover a large portion of the travel cost itself.

Booking holiday travel now on a new credit card with a sign-up bonus may make it easier to reach that bonus spending threshold early and use that extra cash on other holiday spending, like gifts.

Instead of a one-time sign-up bonus up front, Discover offers new Miles cardmembers the opportunity to  earn unlimited 1.5 Miles for every dollar spent on purchases, and it will also match all the Miles earned at the end of your first year.*

Having More Time to Pay

For most people, the holidays mean spending a significant amount of money on presents for family members and friends, which can make purchasing the travel required to see family in the first place a strain on your wallet. With a credit card, though, you always have the opportunity to book holiday travel ahead of your gift-buying spree, and then pay the balance off after the holidays, when your spending habits are back to normal.

Of course, carrying a balance, with most cards, means paying interest. So keeping any expense, including holiday travel, on a credit card should not be done without consideration. For many, though, the added interest is worth getting to see their family.

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*Discover Match®: No purchase minimums. After the first 12 consecutive billing periods that your new account is open, we will match all the Miles you’ve earned and apply them to your account in the following one or two billing periods. If your account is closed or no longer in the Miles reward program at the time we calculate your potential award, your Miles will not be matched. You’ve earned Miles rewards when they have posted to your account by the end of the 12th consecutive billing period. This promotional offer may not be offered in the future. This exclusive offer is available only to new cardmembers.

Originally published November 20, 2017

Updated September 24, 2018

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