There's some good news and some bad news for all the holiday travelers out there who haven't yet booked their Thanksgiving airline tickets. (A sneak peek: Those who have should start thinking about December's holidays -- Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year's Eve.)
First, the good news. Several airlines, including American
Now, the bad news. Ticket prices are up, and cheap fares are scarce.
A number of major carriers late last week announced $10 fare increases for round-trip travel to some destinations. American and Delta led the way. Continental
Experts say ticket prices for the holiday season have increased 10% to 15% compared with last year, and most of the least expensive tickets have already been snatched up by early shoppers. (You can read more about this bad news here.)
It seems that supply and demand aren't working in favor of travelers this year. Airlines, faced with rising fuel prices and other costs, have been slowly trimming their flight schedules. At the same time, more families plan to pack up and fly out to the beach, or to Grandma's house, for the holidays.
If you've procrastinated, you may be in for some sticker shock when you go searching for those tickets. How can you take a little bit of the pain out of high ticket prices? Here are a few ideas:
Be flexible with your travel dates
This is common advice, and it's sometimes easier said than done when trying to harmonize everyone's work and school schedules. But, to the extent you can avoid the most common travel dates, you can usually lower your ticket price a little bit. Some websites, like Travelocity
Low fares can disappear quickly, particularly for popular travel seasons. This is one place where it can pay not to procrastinate. Some people, on the other hand, swear by last-minute fare deals. A new website can give you some indication of whether it's better to buy or to wait.
The website charts recent ticket prices and indicates whether they might go up or down. Let's say I go on a wild tear and decide to go to Las Vegas for New Year's Eve. As of today, the site predicts with 80% confidence that fares will go down, and that I should wait.
Most everyone's aware of the big online ticket sources, like Travelocity; Orbitz, a unit of Cendant; and Priceline
Try the websites for individual airlines, too. The fares may differ from the ones you found in other places. Airlines' websites can also point you to their special offerings. Don't forget the low-cost carriers. Southwest
Get a little obsessive
You probably have better things to do with your time, but it pays to just keep checking if you really want to save a chunk of money on airfare. Have an idea of the average rate, so you'll know a good deal when you see it. Be willing to jump at the specials when they're announced. Sign up for all those emails alerting you to special offers and fare changes.
You can get more ideas for cutting your travel costs at the Fool's Travel Center. And -- proof that the Fool website has everything -- there's even a Cheap Air Fares discussion board. The Living Below Your Means board is also full of seasoned budget-trimmers.
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Fool contributor Mary Dalrymple will see you in the airport security lines this Thanksgiving. She does not own shares of any stock mentioned in this article, and she welcomes your feedback . Cendant was a former Inside Value pick.