Holidays mean holiday travel -- which for many people means "crazy, expensive holiday travel." TripAdvisor.com estimates 43 percent of all Americans will travel during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday by car, plane, train, bus, or other mode, and that's up 7 percent from last year.
For those of us looking to buy airplane tickets around Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, or New Year's, it can easily be the most expensive time of the year to travel.
Anne Banas, executive editor of SmaterTravel.com, said it is "not completely hopeless'' to find some deals or chances for savings on holiday travel -- but it's certainly not easy, and you need to have your expectations set properly.
"Right now, we're seeing fares that are two to three times higher than normal,'' Banas said in an interview Friday afternoon at her Boston office. "For example, if you're flying on peak days around Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays, you could see a flight from Boston to Los Angeles $1,000 round-trip. Normally it's about one-third that amount.''
So her first key piece of advice: With Christmas falling on a Thursday this year just as Thanksgiving always does, don't try to fly when everyone else wants to fly. "A lot of people are going to want to maximize that weekend by flying out on a Wednesday and returning on a Sunday. Maybe go on Tuesday, instead, or fly home on Friday or Saturday morning. That's when you're going to find potentially lower prices.''
Even better, consider flying on the holiday itself. She took us through some searches on SmarterTravel's website for a round-trip to Philadelphia that clocked in a $516 round trip if you flew down Tuesday the 23rd and home on Sunday the 28th. By switching to flying down on Christmas day, the price fell to $347. Likewise, for a $518 or $598 round-trip to Buffalo, by flying on Christmas day, it dropped to $416. Other cities showed comparable savings.
"Sometimes you can be taking a little bit of a risk when it comes to weather conditions and flight delays, and if it's the case that you want to save money by flying on the holiday, try to book the first flight out in the morning, so that there's a chance if it is delayed, you'll still be able to get on another flight later in the day,'' Banas said.
Likewise, she said, the day you go searching on line for fares matters, too. In her experience, Banas said, "Most airlines release sales on Mondays and Tuesdays, and that's often when you're going to find the best deals of the week. If you look in the beginning of the week, chances are you're going to get some of the best deals on offer.''
With video editor Lauren Kleciak and videographer Daniel J. Ferrigan