Book Christmas Travel Immediately, Says Travelocity

RF CD:  Christmas
Corel

We may still be in October, but if you are thinking of traveling home for the holidays, get on booking those tickets immediately. According to booking data from Travelocity, Christmastime travelers get the best deals when they book by Nov. 12.

Granted it’s Travelocity’s job to get you to buy tickets, but if you’re looking to snag a good deal, it’s smart to look at its data to get an idea of how much you’ll be paying and how much when you purchase the ticket will affect the final price.For example, according to the data, the average round-trip domestic airfare for travel at Christmastime is $450, up 7.5 percent from last year. Those traveling internationally still will be paying for expensive tickets, but they’re about the same price as last year, with the average ticket at $1,016, up only 2.5 percent from last year.

Here is Travelocity’s booking barometer:

Booking Week Fare
8 weeks before Oct 30 – Nov 5 $ 314.00
7 weeks before Nov 6 – Nov 12 $ 320.00
6 weeks before Nov 13 – Nov 19 $ 352.00
5 weeks before Nov 20 – Nov 26 $ 392.00
4 weeks before Nov 27 – Dec 3 $ 341.00
3 weeks before Dec 4 – Dec 10 $ 313.00
2 weeks before Dec 11 – Dec 17 $ 363.00
1 week before Dec 18 – Dec 24 $ 438.00

As you can see, you can book now and snag a cheap ticket, or keep your fingers crossed and buy a relatively last-minute one a few weeks before. Other Christmas booking tips include avoiding the Sunday and Monday after Christmas, as those are two days with ticket spikes.

Not going home for Christmastime? This is also the time to book for Thanksgiving. Between now and Nov. 9, Travelocity says prices drop, and then go right back up, and steeply, around Nov. 10.

Dim Sum For Christmas: Creating A Holiday Tradition At Home

dim sumWith very few exceptions, I’ve spent the last 17-plus Christmases going out for dim sum. No matter where I’m living at the time, once December rolls around, I start researching the best places to indulge my har gow habit. Why? Because I’ve worked in the service industry for over two decades.

I’ve either waited tables or worked retail (usually in the food industry) since I was in my 20s. In layman’s terms, it means that the holidays ceased to exist for me starting in 1995, when I started culinary school.

I’d always loved Christmas as a kid and in college. Yet, I willingly sacrificed the holidays, because it meant I’d finally embarked upon the career path I’d long dreamt of: becoming a cooking teacher and food (and eventually, travel) writer. I naively failed to realize that decades of restaurant work, flogging farmers market produce, and slinging cheese and meat would be required to supplement my occupational pursuits.

I’ve been able to travel overseas a couple of times over the holidays, and the Christmases spent in Thailand and New Zealand were memorable from both a cultural and universal perspective. If I had the financial means, I’d always travel during the holidays. In general, however, being in the food industry means you stay at home this time of year, even if home is somewhere most people would kill to visit (I’ve been fortunate to work the holidays in Vail and Telluride).christmasUnable to take Christmases off to see my family (they always get Thanksgiving, which is extremely important to my parents), I started going out for dim sum as a way to pass the time, stave off loneliness and get a good meal.

Dim sum parlors and Cantonese restaurants are always packed Christmas Day, with Chinese-Americans as well as diners of varying ethnic and religious persuasions. I’ve learned over the years that many people have a Christmas dim sum tradition, usually because they don’t celebrate for whatever reason (not having kids is a big one).

In my case, I’m single and childless, but that’s not why I do dim sum. Ethnically, my relatives on both sides of the family were immigrant Russian Jews, but my agnostic parents celebrated Christmas when my brother and I were growing up. To them, it was a way to unite family and allow us kids … to be kids. As a child, I never imagined Christmas and I would part ways.

As an adult, I shun Christmas not because I have to work, but for the same reasons many people do: it’s a stressful, bank account-depleting, heavily commercialized guilt-fest. I don’t miss it, although I do my best for my teenaged niece (who received a rescue kitten from me this year) and nephew.

The truth is, if I’m unable to travel, I relish having one day a year where I can have 24 hours off and not feel bad about it. I eat delicious dumplings, maybe go for a hike or see a movie. Call family and friends. It’s unabashed me-time, and until or unless I meet someone I want to create a more traditional holiday with … please pass the bao.

[Photo credit: dim sum, Flickr user Jason Hutchens; tree, Flickr user Ian.Kobylanski]

VIDEO: Merry Kiwi Christmas

Tis the season for holiday-themed marketing videos, but this one is so charming, it’s already on heavy rotation in my household. Pauanesia, the wonderful Auckland shop featured in our New Zealand-made souvenirs story, has just released this “Night Before Christmas” video starring their stuffed kiwi birds. The adorable and colorful birds, retro-simple stop-motion animation, and jazzy ukelele soundtrack (from Kiwi band Wellington Ukelele Orchestra) make for a lovely short.

Merry kiwi Christmas from New Zealand!

Top Holiday Travel Destinations: Where To Go And Where To Avoid (If You Can)

orlando mapWe all know that holiday travel can be a nightmare, with everyone and their mother flying home for the holidays. This holiday season will be particularly difficult, with both Christmas and New Year’s falling just after a weekend, meaning that many travelers will opt to maximize holiday vacation with multiple trips.

But where are most people headed? It seems like warm weather is a major draw. Orlando beat out New York and Chicago for the most searched holiday destination, according to KAYAK, and Florida is the number-one trending destination overall.

Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Orlando flight searches increased between 14% – 26% from last year. Unfortunately for those heading to the Sunshine State, data also shows the average airfare to Orlando this holiday season jumped just over 13% from last year. Phoenix is also showing a fairly large rise in airfare, 10.3% on average higher than it was at this time last year.

What about New Year’s Eve? It looks like the Times Square crowd wins, with New York capturing the top slot, with Las Vegas a close second and Orlando a third-place winner. But if you’re looking to fly, avoid Orlando, which, along with Seattle has a 9% YOY increase in price. Other destinations to pass on? Honolulu (16% gain) and Cancun (10% gain).

Will you be traveling to any of these places? Did you get a good deal?

[Image credit: chadmiller]

VIDEO: Turkish Tannenbaum

On Tane Baum in Istanbul” from Manzara Istanbul on Vimeo.

Want to feel some holiday warm and fuzzies? Take a few minutes to enjoy this Turkish video from Manzara Istanbul, a vacation apartment rental agency in Turkey‘s most popular city. The agency is run by a German Turk, who coordinated his entire staff to sing a not-exactly-stellar but very sweet version of the Christmas carol “O Tannenbaum” (aka “O Christmas Tree”), in German, no less. It’s part music video, part travelogue of the lovely Galata neighborhood, much of it off key, but heartfelt. You can also see the making of their awesome green glass bottle Christmas tree in Istanbul, but the narration is all in German. For more information on the musicians, the (very impressive) production team behind the video has a post here.

Manzara has also released another holiday video for this year, with more endearing Turks, beautiful shots of Istanbul, and great music, but the traditional Arabesque style is a bit on the cheesy side.

Mutlu Yillar (Season’s Greetings)!