Monday, 21 June 2010

10 Tips for Holiday Travel

With the global economy in crisis and both travelers and airlines feeling the pinch, it may not seem like 2010 will be the cheeriest of holiday travel seasons. Airlines have cut flights, raised fares and added a surge of surcharges for everything from checked bags to phone bookings. Meanwhile, many travelers are postponing or canceling their holiday plans to save money.

But for travelers still planning to visit Grandma's for Thanksgiving or spend Christmas weekend in Paris, the news isn't all bad. There are still deals to be found, provided you shop carefully and plan ahead. Check out our 10 tips for holiday travel and find some joy this holiday season.

Avoid peak travel dates
At Thanksgiving, Wednesday is the critical outbound "avoid" day as a rule. Traveling on Thanksgiving day proper is often a breeze and more affordable; there are often cut-rate airfare deals on Thanksgiving day. 

On the return, Friday morning isn't bad at all, with each successive day getting a little busier, more difficult and more expensive through Sunday evening. The bottom line: If you are looking for a deal, you won't find one on the peak travel days. Travel off-peak whenever possible.
Christmas and New Year's Day fall on Thursdays this year, which means that the same advice for Thanksgiving will apply to both of these holidays — fly on the holiday itself if possible, and avoid Sunday evening at the end of the long weekend.

Book early

Haven't booked your holiday travel yet? It's time to stop waiting and start booking. Fares are only rising as Thanksgiving approaches, so those who hold out in hopes of a late-breaking sale are likely to get left out in the cold or pay a very steep price for their procrastination. The same goes for the Christmas holiday; book sooner rather than later, particularly if you require very specific travel dates or times. With the current state of the airline industry, it is never too early to book your holiday travel flights.
While many of the best deals are probably already gone, keep an eye on our Holiday Deals section for any last-minute bargains. Be prepared to be flexible with dates and flight times.

Shop around
Whether you're using booking sites like Travelocity, bid or auction sites such as Priceline, aggregator sites or our very own Bargain Box, comparison shopping has never been easier than it is right now. During peak travel season, casting the net as wide as possible will help you understand all of your options.
For many travelers, price isn't the only or even the most important factor, especially during the holidays. Thoughtful, deliberate use of the "search adjacent days or airports" features found on many Web sites may also surrender greatly improved fares and travel times.
Know your airports

 Checking alternate airports is a pretty standard tactic, but at this time of year it can really make a difference. At no time can the alternate airport gambit pay off better than during the holiday crush. You can score on almost every front — parking, rental cars, traffic to and from, nearby hotels — and save both time and money.

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