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Travel

Time to Book Holiday Travel

Buy airline tickets soon to lock in affordable fares.

If you plan to fly this Thanksgiving or Christmas, now is the time to start searching for good fares, says Anne Banas, executive editor of SmarterTravel.com. This is especially true if your travel plans aren't flexible. She says it is better to look early for fares in your budget rather than hold out in hopes of getting a cheap fare that might not materialize.

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She expects holiday airfares to be similar to what they were last year and says travelers probably won't see great deals because airlines are continuing to cut capacity.

Check prices on routes you're interested in now to get a sense of how much you can expect to pay. If you see a great fare, grab it. Otherwise, sign up for alerts from airlines and travel sites -- such as Airfarewatchdog.com, Bing Travel, Kayak.com and Yapta.com -- so you'll know if prices drop. But don't hold out too long because prices likely will start increasing after the first two weeks of October.

The best day to book flights is Tuesday because that's when sales are released, Banas says. Usually the cheapest days to fly are Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, but that's not always the case for holiday travel -- especially considering that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is a peak travel day. So Banas recommends using a flexible search option, such as the ones at Bing Travel or Priceline.com. For Christmas, consider planning a family gathering the first two weeks of December or right after the New Year because those are the cheapest times to travel.

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Being flexible about which airport you fly into also can help you save money. And if you were planning on renting a car anyway, driving an hour or so to get from the alternate airport to your final destination probably is worth it. (If you weren't going to rent a car but will need to if you fly into an alternate airport, make sure the cost of the rental doesn't match or exceed the cost of flying directly to your destination.)

Remember to keep an eye on your fare after you buy because most airlines and online travel agencies will give you a rebate -- usually in travel credits or vouchers -- if your flight’s price drops below what you paid. Yapta.com will send you alerts if the price drops on a flight you've booked. Be aware, though, that some airlines can charge hefty fees for re-booking your flight. If the fee outweighs your rebate, it's not worth it to make a change.

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