NEW YORK — no one wants to pore over holiday airfares, lookingfor the best deal, like cramming for a final exam. instead of beinga student, be savvy. The travelers who get the best airfares thisholiday season will be those who searched the smartest, not thelongest.
The trick: You’ll have to know the right time to look. There are”sweet spots” in which to get the best deals this year, fareexperts say, and one of those starts this week.
You can save a bundle by booking early, but what if you haven’tdecided if you’re headed to grandma’s yet? if you’re not ready tobook, don’t worry. Procrastinators still might score low fares,despite the fact there are more travelers and fewer seats thisyear.
For Thanksgiving and Christmas flights, fares will be at lowestthrough next week, according to historical data analyzed by Expediafor The Associated Press. Ticket prices are about 10 to 20 percentlower now than they will be in just a couple of weeks, said DanielKissin, Expedia’s manager of strategy and analysis.
After next week, Thanksgiving fares will start to climb, peakingabout three weeks ahead of the holiday. For Christmas travel,ticket prices will likely be highest in mid-November, Kissinsaid.
But procrastinators take note: There should be a period afterthose peaks when fares will fall — two weeks before Thanksgivingand two weeks before Christmas — as airlines evaluate theirbookings.
A word to the wise. Don’t wait for a big, flashy sale. Bothprice drops probably will be under the radar. so it’s best tocomparison shop on various sites to find the best price. The chancefor spectacular deals with the holidays looming is less likely thanin the past two years.
And if you know your plans, booking sooner is always better thanlater. Procrastinating doesn’t usually pay when you don’t haveflexibility with your travel dates or destination, said Travelocitysenior editor Genevieve Shaw Brown.
“To me it doesn’t make a lot of sense to roll the dice,” shesaid. “I don’t think there’s a lot of opportunity for last-minutedeals, but if you want one, you’ll have to be flexible” with traveltimes.
Travelers will have more flexibility and more opportunity to getcheaper flights around Christmas because travel isn’t concentratedin one weekend, as it is for Thanksgiving.
For Thanksgiving flights, it’s cheapest this year to fly out onThanksgiving Day (Thursday) and return on Tuesday, according toBrown. An average fare on those travel days is $293, compared with$463 for a flight leaving the Tuesday before the holiday andreturning Sunday. Avoid flying on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.Fares are much more expensive, and there could be headaches at theairport because it’s one of the heaviest travel days of theyear.
Many people are probably well-versed in bag fees by now, butthere are other fees to look out for that might take holidaytravelers by surprise.
AirTran last month raised its first checked bag fee to $20 from$15. most major airlines’ checked baggage fees have remained steadyat $25. if you’re flying Spirit Airlines, don’t forget about thenew carry-on bag fee that started Aug. 1. that can run up to$45.
American Airlines now charges $19 to $39 for seats in the firstfew rows of coach. You can only book those seats at airport kiosks.Airlines that charge extra for certain seats include UnitedAirlines, Continental Airlines inc., US Airways Group inc., JetBlueAirways Corp. and Spirit.
Although they’re baked into fares and invisible to travelers,peak day surcharges will return this year.
A fee of $10 to $30 will come with fares on the Wednesday beforeThanksgiving and the Sunday after, as well as popular travel daysaround Christmas.
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