The holidays are a time for gathering with your family, but sometimes that’s easier said than done. I don’t mean to sound like a Scrooge, but let’s face it, traveling to see your loved ones isn’t easy during the holidays. Airfares go up, flights book quickly and there’s the ever-present risk of getting snowed in.

Unless spending the holidays alone is an option, those of you with family in other places will have to make some sacrifices. The good news is, there are more tricks today than ever to get the cheapest and easiest travel routes, even during the busy season.

Price comparison

My favorite website for finding the cheapest travel routes is Kayak. I actually like its smartphone app better than the website because it sends you push notifications whenever a cheaper flight becomes available.

When I used the site last year to find a flight to New York for New Year’s Eve, I booked it two days before my trip and it cost about $200. I had to fly out of Myrtle Beach, but a 90-minute drive was well worth the savings.

Book early

I’m not suggesting you follow my example and wait until the last minute. If you’re flying home for Thanksgiving, book your flight as soon as possible, today if you can. If you find out later that your flight is selling for cheaper, some travel sites such as Orbitz.com and CheapAir.com will give you a rebate to make up the difference. Airlines such as JetBlue and Southwest will do the same, according to airfare analyst George Hobica.

Travel on right days

CheapAir.com creates a Holiday Fare Index to help travelers find the best days of the holiday season to travel. The site tracks prices of 11,000 flights during the season.

According to the Thanksgiving index, the cheapest times to fly out before the holiday are Nov. 22-24, but you can still find some cheap flights Nov. 25-26. If you’re flying the day before Thanksgiving, prepare to spend quite a lot. If you don’t have to be back at work on Black Friday, you can find the cheapest flights home Saturday or Sunday.

For December travel, avoid booking flights Dec. 20 and 29. The cheapest flights you’ll find are on Dec. 21-22 and Dec. 27-28.

Ship in advance

Checking extra bags can cost you up to $50 each. To reduce your load, ship any presents you’re bringing to the festivities to your destination ahead of time. Many sites such as Amazon are offering free shipping on certain items during the holidays.

Reach Abigail Darlington at adarlington@postandcourier.com.