Q. I've read so many times that holiday airfares are much higher this year than last, so I have been afraid even to look. When will be the cheapest days to travel and when are the cheapest days to search for airfares this holiday? Should I wait until the last minute or is it already too late?

A. Don't give up hope! Fares may indeed drop at the last minute, and if fares are so high that you're not going to travel anyway, you have nothing to lose searching last minute.

Here are my top 10 rules for finding travel deals for the holidays:

1. Keep looking, at least 3 times a day until you find something good (you have nothing to lose except a few minutes of your time).

2. Keep looking….(do not be discouraged unnecessarily by the "fare experts")

3. Keep looking…. (OK, I really want to drive that home! Fares fluctuate throughout the day, and the number of seats at the lowest fare can also change minute by minute)

4. Be willing to take inconvenient flight times (6 a.m. departures, red eye flights, etc) and connecting flights

5. Look at nearby alternate airports (West Palm Beach rather than Miami, Mesa, AZ rather than Phoenix). It may be cheaper flying one-way into one airport, and out of a nearby airport.

6. Check Southwest.com, Allegiantair.com, and Spirit.com separately (assuming they fly where you're going).

7. Travel on Thanksgiving Day, return the Saturday or Monday after, or on Christmas Day and return the Tuesday or Wednesday after.

8. Consider a cruise. If you live within 4 hours driving distance of a cruise port, and the majority of Americans do, a cruise on Carnival, NCL or other cruise lines might be less than a flight. Much less in some cases.

9. Check out fares to Europe. Ironically, it might be cheaper to fly to London or Paris over the holidays than to Grandma's house.

10. And be sure to sign up for airfare alerts from several fare alert sites, such as Yapta.com, TripAdvisor.com/flights, and Airfarewatchdog.com.

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