Northwest Arkansas residents are fast approaching two so-called dead zones that allow them to find the least expensive airfares from the region’s commercial airport.
The dead zones occur five times a year, and an important one takes shape after the Thanksgiving travel surge. It continues until about Dec. 14. Another dead zone arrives after the Christmas holidays and lasts throughout January.
These dead zones are often great times to travel because the number of people flying is way down, meaning navigating airports should be easier. And, the prices of hotels and rental cars should be less.
From Northwest Arkansas National Airport, some of the very best dead-zone options are available for trips between Dec. 8-12, making a weekend junket easy to pull off without burning up too many PTO days.
Here’s how FareFlightNWA ranks the best deals available from XNA in early December with our favorite listed at the top. We prioritize cost (per usual), but we’re also keen on destinations that offer the likelihood of good weather and that are likely to require only one or two PTO days. Additionally, we give some preference to destinations that don’t always have an airline flying to it at a great price.
Four of XNA’s six airlines show up on our list.
We’d put a trip to Tampa at the top of the list because there are so many options once you hit the ground, the price is terrific and the Florida weather should be fine. Breeze Airways is the best option, leaving Dec. 8 and returning to XNA on Dec. 11 for $118 roundtrip.
During the December dead period, Breeze is the only nonstop option as Allegiant Air is pausing its nonstop flights to St. Pete/Clearwater from Nov. 27 through Dec. 15.
Ybor City. a historic area in the Tampa metro, should be on your list of places to explore. The free TECO streetcar from Ybor through downtown is a great, hassle-free way to check out much of the city.
A trip to the Windy City on United Airlines for $208 roundtrip would be No. 1 on our list except that we don’t trust the weather. The truth is the Chicago high temperatures in December are often in the 30s, the possibility of snow is real, and slushy Michigan Avenue sidewalks sound like no fun.
But you can get there for $208 if you leave XNA on Dec. 8 and come home Dec. 11. Like sports? The Blackhawks (Dec. 9) and the Bulls (Dec. 10) both play at home that weekend.
The other thing about United is the airline has multiple nonstop flights from XNA to Chicago O’Hare each day. If the weather is a factor, it’s good to know there are a few nonstop ways to get home.
Winter weather won’t be Chicago-like in south Texas so that’s helpful to the city’s appearance on this list.
United Airlines goes there on Dec. 1-4 for $188 roundtrip. It’s $208 on Dec. 8-11. There’s more than one time to fly on those days, too.
Another city that often shows up on these lists, because United Airlines competes with Frontier Airlines for the XNA traveler, is Denver. Frontier almost always has the lowest fare
In this case, use Frontier and depart Dec. 9, return home on Dec. 12 for $131 roundtrip. It’s not the least expensive option (Frontier charges $78 on other December days), but the $131 trip requires only two PTO days for those who work Monday through Friday.
What’s great about a flight to Denver is the area offers lots of options. You can head into the mountains, head downtown, or discover the city’s trendy LoDo area.
It’s easy to put Phoenix on this list because Allegiant Air always makes flying cheap. Trouble is that’s it’s seasonal service, limiting the options.
Allegiant restarts the seasonal route from XNA to the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport later this month, and we’d go there on Dec. 16-19 for $90 roundtrip.
December in the desert should be great. Highs are often in the upper 60s and the lows rarely get below 45 degrees.
In a massive metropolitan area like Phoenix, there’s plenty to explore once you’ve arrived.
The only pause with taking this exact flight to Phoenix/Mesa in December is that the route is about to have far more nonstop service from XNA, starting in February. That’s when Allegiant will be going head to head on the route with new competition from American Airlines (Feb. 3) and Breeze Airways (Feb. 17).
Still, at $90 roundtrip, it’s hard to beat the Allegiant option in December.