8 tips for buying holiday airfares

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8 tips for buying holiday airfares

By George Hobica

1. It will be cheaper to fly, as usual, on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day than on other holiday days.

2. In the past two years, we noticed that on many routes air fares were quite high for peak holiday travel, but a couple of weeks before the holidays airlines reduced fares on less popular flight times, such as early morning (7 a.m.) departures and red eye flights. As such, people who bought far ahead ended up overpaying. But it's impossible to generalize if and when airlines will decide to adjust holiday fares if seats are going begging on certain routes.

3. We suspect that peak holiday fares will be higher this year than last year, due to airline consolidation and capacity cuts.

4. Although you might pay a bit less by grabbing the last seat on an inconvenient flight time closer to the holidays, if you want to choose your favorite seat or preferred flight times, you're probably better off booking now. Equally true if there are several of you flying together and you don't want to all end up sitting far apart from each other.

5. In general, you can save money on peak holiday travel by taking connecting flights rather than nonstop flights. But since foul winter weather can foul up connections, you're better off paying extra for nonstops.

6. If you're worried about overpaying and are the kind of person who second guesses your buying decisions, remember that Alaska Air, JetBlue and Southwest will give you a voucher good for future travel, without extracting a rebooking fee, if the fare goes down between the time you buy and the time you fly. Other airlines charge up to $150 on a domestic fare, $250 or more on international ones.

7. With peak holiday fares so high, holiday travel is generally a good time to cash in frequent flyer miles, assuming that award seats are available for the route you're flying.

8. And as always, sign up for airfare alerts.

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