Looking For Holiday Airfare? Better Hurry

When to buy holiday airfare is often the most difficult part of the process. Deciding where to go, when we want to fly there and who we might travel with is easy. Knowing when to pull the trigger on buying airfare seems to require a crystal ball. Since most of us don’t have mystic forecasting abilities, we look to what or who we believe are qualified sources for guidance. Experts seem to agree, the best time to buy is sooner than later.

“You don’t have a moment to lose,” said Rick Searcy, CEO of FareCompare in an ABC News report, cautioning travelers, “Holiday flights are going to be expensive.” Searcy believes that prices will be up to 70 percent higher than normal pricing, depending on routes, and those looking for direct flights can expect up to a 20 percent premium price.

So when to buy?

Those who have not bought flights for Thanksgiving travel are already too late for the best pricing. Looking at Christmas travel, Searcy suggests buying before November 10 for the best pricing and consider traveling during off peak times.Other ways to save on airfare?

Try a travel agent- Expect to pay a fee of $20 to $50 per person on top of the airfare but that fee can quickly become a great investment if a travel agent finds great flights at a lower price in less time than we might invest on our own surfing websites.

To get the best results with a travel agent, have very specific but flexible travel plans. Establish what agents call a “travel window,” basically a period of time within which you are able to fly. Note the time you need on the ground for holiday plans and throw in any hotel, car rental or other needs at the destination.

Also, send along past guest/frequent flyer numbers and available points to that agent to have on file and take advantage of if possible.

Pay attention to airline promotions- I got one today via email from American Airlines doubling miles every time I fly on American Airlines, American Eagle or the American Connection carrier from November 16, 2012, through November 26, 2012. Those miles might mean a lot to me and swing my vote toward American if two options come up roughly equal.

Regardless of what airline we fly, what airport we use or when we go, it’s clear that this year prices will be up and availability down as airlines trim fleets to fly full planes.

[Photo Credit- Flickr user matt.hintsa]