Well as a student on a budget, I have a pretty flexible schedule around the holiday season. I know that I want to fly home (Chicago) a few days before Christmas and fly back around the New Year. I actually booked a flight for Jan 1 because all Elite Status Qualifying counters reset at the beginning of the year and I will have already qualified for Executive Platinum Status for 2011 through Feb. 2013.
For the past 3 years I’ve typically bought my tickets for the holiday in July, September and August and I typically look around this time period to find cheap tickets. The airlines know that they can sell seats around this time so they very rarely discount fares, however with periodic checking you can find a good price. Typical base fares have been about 500 R/T (Round Trip) a/i (all-inclusive), yet when looking I found tickets for 120 each way for a grand total of $240! Actually, this was only $216 after my CostCo gift card purchase. This was a steal and I booked it in a heart beat. In fact, I was able to get two of my friends to book this with me, so I’ll actually have traveling companions, which will be interesting. Note: They don’t have status, but with a quick phone call to the AAdvantage Customer Service center and they could take Preferred Seats next to me.
I did book this as two one way tickets (with separate PNRs) in order to allow me some flexibility. I do this because these are non-refundable fares. If for some reason I need to change my schedule I can miss my flight and it won’t affect the second flight. This is important because airlines will in fact cancel the rest of your itinerary if you miss a segment.