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Oct 222012
 October 22, 2012  Posted by  Travel
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Holiday travel is always more expensive than non-peak getaways, and it will be even more costly to fly this year thanks to airline consolidations and cuts in seat capacity.  Here are eight ways to save on your holiday flights.

Sign up for airfare alerts, so you’re the first to know when airfares drop.  My go-to website for fare alerts is Airfare Watchdog, which also publishes unpublished airfare discount deals. Alaska Air, JetBlue and Southwest offer refunds if the airfare drops between the time you book and the time you fly, so check fares one more time just before you head for the airport.

Book early to get your choice of flight times and/or seats. You may pay more, but if you wait, your pickings may be slim, and likely more expensive, too.

Consider waiting to book. For the last few years, airlines have reduced airfares just before the holidays on less popular flight times, such as departures at dawn and overnight red-eye flights. Those who booked early ended up overpaying.

Video: How to Plan a Family Holiday Vacation

Consider connecting, rather than nonstop, flights, unless you are concerned that winter snowstorms might mess up connections. If it is, you’re better off paying more to fly nonstop.

Check what I call “secondary” airports, which are often less expensive.  Burbank or Orange County instead of Los Angeles, Idaho Falls instead of Jackson Hole, Chicago Midway instead of Chicago O’Hare, Fort Lauderdale instead of Miami, Santa Fe instead of Albuquerque, and so on.

Fly on the actual holiday instead of the days surrounding it. Demand is lower on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, so airfares are lower, too.  A few years ago, I flew to a holiday ski trip on Christmas Day to save several hundred dollars over flying the day before or the day after Christmas. It was a festive flight, with caroling, cabin attendants handing out candy canes and passengers talking about their families and friends.

If you have frequent flyer miles and can use them for award seats, now is a good time to do so.

With airlines charging $50 or more for a checked bag, you could save money by shipping your luggage instead of checking it.  Three services to check out are Luggage Express (866-744-7224), LuggageFree (800-361-6871) Luggage Forward (866-416-7447).  They’ll wrap your bag in protective plastic, insure it for $10,000, and allow you to track your stuff via smartphone, tablet or laptop.

And one final tip: Consider travel insurance.  As I wrote on ecoXplorer, travel insurance protects you against missed connections, missing baggage, medical emergencies, even losing your passport.

Safe — and cheap — holiday travels!

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Evelyn Kanter

Evelyn Kanter is an award-winning journalist who has been reporting on good deals and warning about bad ones, for longer than she cares to admit publicly. A native and lifelong New Yorker, she was the first consumer reporter for CBS News and for WABC TV “Eyewitness News” and helped launch the “Sales and Bargains” column in New York Magazine. Evelyn is the author or editor of more than a dozen travel guidebooks and apps, including Peaceful Places New York City, and owns and operates NYC On The Cheap and EcoXplorer. A long-time tree-hugger, Evelyn also writes about green travel, green cars and saving the green in your wallet for national and regional publications, including a column syndicated by Motor Matters and for, AAA magazines and airline inflights.

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