Search smart for holiday travel bargains

NEW YORK — No one wants to pore over holiday airfares, looking for the best deal, like cramming for a final exam.

Instead of being a student, be savvy. The travelers who get the best airfares this holiday season will be those who searched the smartest, not the longest.

The trick: You’ll have to know the right time to look.

When to book

You can save a bundle by booking early, but what if you haven’t decided if you’re headed to Grandma’s yet?

If you’re not ready to book, don’t worry. Procrastinators still might score low fares, despite the fact there are more travelers and fewer seats this year.

For Thanksgiving and Christmas flights, fares will be lowest through next week, according to historical data analyzed by Expedia for the Associated Press.

Ticket prices are about 10 percent to 20 percent lower now than they will be in just a couple of weeks, said Daniel Kissin, Expedia’s manager of strategy and analysis.

After next week, Thanksgiving fares will start to climb, peaking about three weeks ahead of the holiday. For Christmas travel, ticket prices will likely be highest in mid-November, Kissin said.

But procrastinators take note: There should be a period after those peaks when fares will fall, two weeks before Thanksgiving and two weeks before Christmas.

Don’t wait for a big, flashy sale. Both price drops probably will be under the radar. It’s best to comparison shop on various sites.

The chance for spectacular deals with the holidays looming is less likely than in the past two years.

And if you know your plans, booking sooner is always better than later.

When to fly

For Thanksgiving flights, it’s cheapest this year to fly out on Thanksgiving Day and return on Tuesday, Brown said.

An average fare on those travel days is $293, compared with $463 for a flight leaving the Tuesday before the holiday and returning Sunday.

Avoid flying on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, if you can. Fares are much more expensive.


Many people are probably well-versed in bag fees by now, but there are other fees to look out for that might take holiday travelers by surprise.

American Airlines now charges $19 to $39 for seats in the first few rows of coach. You can only book those seats at airport kiosks.

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