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Travel

Fly the Holiday Skies for Less

Holiday-travel procrastinators will have little to celebrate this season. Demand for flights is hopping, so airlines will be able to skip the big last-minute fare sales they offered in recent years just to fill their planes, says Rick Seaney, co-founder of airfare-shopping site FareCompare.com. But you can still fly home for the holidays without breaking the bank.

Be flexible. One of the best ways to cut travel costs is to fly when others don't want to. For example, the average round-trip domestic fare for this year's most popular itineraries for Christmas and New Year's -- departing on the Thursdays before and returning on the Sundays after -- is $403, according to Bing Travel. But returning on the holidays themselves or their eves are usually the cheapest days to fly. This year, flying home on Christmas or New Year's saves an average of $67 per ticket.

Staying grounded on the busiest travel days will also save you the holiday surcharge some major airlines are adding to fares. Flights on Christmas Day are exempt entirely from the extra cost. Otherwise, flying anytime from December 17 through January 3 will cost $10 to $30 extra each way.

Take your chances. If you're a gambler at heart, sign up for fare alerts from sites such as Kayak.com, Airfarewatchdog.com and FareCompare.com to track any last-minute, deeply discounted fares to your destination. At Yapta.com you can track a specific flight, which is useful if you've already purchased your tickets: If the fare for your flight drops below what you paid, most airlines will refund the difference. You usually receive a travel voucher, and some airlines charge a change fee.