It's Not Too Early to Book Holiday Travel
Labor Day has come and gone, so now it's time to start thinking about ... booking your Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday travel. No, we're not kidding. Now is the time to start looking for flights, says Anne Banas executive editor of SmarterTravel.com.
Airfare for Thanksgiving travel in the U.S. is expected to be down 22% from 2008, according to Bing Travel, which is part of Microsoft's new search service. Travelers can save even more by booking a return flight on Monday rather than Sunday. Christmas and New Year's fares will be down about 17% from last year.
The airfare prediction business is always risky, Banas says. SmarterTravel.com usually advises people to book holiday travel early, but the best deals last year were at the last minute because of the recession. Banas says that probably won't happen again this year. "Don't hesitate to book [a flight now] if you see great fare," she says.
To find the best deals, see our picks for the best travel sites and 20 Secrets to Save on Travel.
If you're concerned that the H1N1 influenza, or swine flu, might force you to change or cancel your travel plans, consider buying travel insurance. With Expedia's Package Protection Plan, for example, you're ensured a refund if you need to cancel or change plans. You'll also be reimbursed for trip delays, baggage losses and medical expenses. Or you can compare and buy policies at TravelGuard.com.
Banas warns that you should make sure your policy covers pandemics and epidemics. If a major outbreak happens, though, most airlines likely will allow customers to change flights for free.
Another thing to consider this holiday travel season: checked bag fees. Southwest Airlines still lets you check two bags for free, and JetBlue lets you check one without a charge. Other airlines, however, are raising their fees for every bag you check, but some will offer a discount if you "check" your bags online -- which means you need to have a good idea how much luggage you'll be taking. See SmarterTravel.com's Ultimate Guide to Airline Fees to help you figure out how much more you'll have to pay in addition to your ticket price.