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Seems like summer vacation is barely over, but if you haven’t thought about booking your holiday travel, it’s time! In fact, your window of opportunity for booking affordable fares for Thanksgiving and Christmas is rapidly shrinking. “My number one tip for getting the lowest (never cheap at holiday time) fares is to book 11 months ahead,” recommends John Latimer, VP of Travel Services at SkyMed International. “Or, if flying on Southwest Airlines, book as soon as they release their availability.”

Barring that (or your own private jet), there are still a few tips for holiday travel that can help you survive the madness.

Travel on the actual holiday (e.g., Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day). The airports on the actual holiday day are virtual cemeteries compared to the first couple of days before. You might arrive late for dinner, but you’ll save yourself the crowds and, perhaps, some green.

Avoid traveling on a Sunday, which is when most leisure travelers are boarding flights. Along with multiple overstuffed bags, tired kids and short tempers.

Try booking your flight for a Tuesday or a Wednesday. However, this might make little difference close to a holiday.

Fly into smaller airports Many booking engines give you the ability to choose a less-busy airport that’s still within driving distance of grandma’s house. You could save quite a bit of money and hassle, which would more than make up for the drive time.

Use online discount travel sites. Or call a travel agent: they have their own tricks up their sleeves that you might not have access to even on deep discount sites. Besides, when you book with a travel agent, he or she will be able to help you if your flight gets cancelled, delayed, overbooked or any of those fun things a website won’t be able to assist you with when you’re at the gate.

Don’t check bags. It’s hard: you need your holiday best, you have gifts, but if it’s at all possible, bring a carry-on. Holidays are a notorious time for lost and delayed baggage.

Start your own tradition. With domestic travel fares rising like champagne bubbles during the holiday, consider taking a look abroad for a new family tradition. Though you might miss out on your Aunt Ida’s famed Christmas Casserole, you could discover how enjoyable winter can be in Argentina (it’s actually summer there) or in off-season Athens, where the weather is mild and the shopping that time of year is outstanding. Oh, and don’t forget: other countries don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. Food for thought.

Shop last minute. Some of the best deals on cruises can be had last-minute, when cruise lines need to fill up their cabins and put what’s left on fire sale. Same applies for airfare and resort stays—all you need are nerves of steel

Have any tips for holiday travel? Share them in our comments section and, as always, we wish you safe travels!



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