Holiday travel to fall 2.5 percent

The airports may not be as crowded at Christmas this year. The Air Transport Association of America expects holiday flight traffic to fall 2.5 percent from 2008. The holiday period is measured as December 17, 2009 through January 6, 2010. The busiest days in the sky are most likely to be the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday after Christmas.

Don’t expect to have plenty of legroom, though. Part of the decline stems from the fact that airlines have cut flights, so fewer people may be jockeying for fewer seats, leaving you just as cramped as usual. Both the dip in the number of passengers and in the number of flights is a direct result of a recession that has had a magnified effect on the travel market this year.

Last week, Delta, American and United all came out and said that they’re seeing an increase in demand — and from those high-value corporate clients that keep the planes in the air.

Five ways to make a dollar go further in New England this holiday season

New England was made for the holiday season. Sure, it’s a bit chilly up there in the winter, but bundle up, and it’s impossible not to be sucked in by the charm of one of the oldest corners of America. If you’re looking for a great way to maximize your spending power this Christmas (who isn’t?!), check out five great ideas from New England Inns and Resorts. There’s plenty of variety … but little room for Scrooges.

Cut your own Christmas tree
This is a tough one if you’re traveling any distance, and trying to cram a fir into the overhead bin will not help you win friends and influence others. But, if you’re within driving distance, check out The Beachmere Inn in Ogunquit, Maine. The holiday package gets you two nights in an ocean view room and a fresh-cut Christmas tree from nearby Bragdon Farms. Fortunately, they’ll wrap it and fasten it to your car. Back at the inn, you’ll also get two hot chocolates and use of the sauna and spa – you’ll need this to warm up a bit; Maine gets pretty cold.

Shop ’til you drop
At the White Mountain Hotel & Resort in North Conway, New Hampshire, you’ll be close to the outlet stores (famous to anyone who grew up in an adjacent state). The package includes discount coupons to make the savings even greater, and you’ll also get breakfast every morning (two-night stay required). So, instead of cramming into the local mall, dash off to do your shopping this year, and make it an experience worth remembering.

No stress involved
Up in Lyndonville, Vermont, The Wildflower Inn wants to make your holiday season as easy as possible. Rather than worry about fold-out couches and relatives lurking in your kitchen in the middle of the night, invade the Wildflower and occupy its 570-acre resort. Stay for three nights, get a full breakfast every day and unwind. Every room has a Christmas tree that’s ready to be decorated. And, the inn will serve dinner on Christmas Eve and Christmas day itself. Don’t worry: Santa goes to Vermont (hell, he doesn’t live far from it). Every room can be expected to have packed stockings!

Movie marathon by the sea
Meadowmere Resort in Ogunquit, Maine is offering a low-key holiday that will make any holiday host drool. Instead of fussing over guests, take advantage of the “Ho-Ho-Ho Package,” and enjoy a holiday movie marathon, caroling and a visit from Santa himself (he doesn’t live far from Maine, either). Bring an unwrapped gift for Meadowmere’s Toys for Tots tree (do it), and relax be the fire.

Think past Christmas
There’s more to the holiday season than Christmas. For the next big event, skip the mayhem of Times Square (or the boredom of watching the ball drop on television), and go to Adair Country Inn & Restaurant in Bethlehem, New Hampshire. Spend two or three nights at the inn, and sit for a four-course dinner on New Year’s Eve. Bring your tux; formal attire is encouraged. A party will follow, with dancing, champagne and a fireworks display. When the festivities are over, scarf down a late-night snack. Drag yourself out of bed the next day for high tea.

Five tips for booking holiday travel

If you’re planning to fly home for the holidays this year, it’s time to start booking your flight. Even though fares are cheaper than they were last year, prices have been going up over the fast few weeks, according to a report in USA Today. Thanksgiving prices are down around 7%, with the Christmas/New Year’s season down 12% from last year. Since the travel market is still limping along, you may be able to pick up some deals. To get the most for your money, though, you’ll need to put in a little bit of effort.

1. Turkey over ham: puts the average price for a Thanksgiving ticket booked from July 1 to October 1, 2009 at $361. For the December holidays, the average was $440. Opting for the closer holiday thus can save you a few bucks.

2. Don’t be demanding: if you have the elbow room to choose different dates around the holiday (maybe visit mom and dad a little longer), you can trim a few dollars from your fare – in particular the new $10 (each way) surcharge that some major airlines are applying to flights from November 29 to 30 and December 19, 26-27 and January 2 and 3. Being flexible on airports might nab you a better deal, as well.

3. Visit, don’t move in: we’re all familiar with the extra baggage fees that airlines have come to enjoy rely on. Cut your load down to the essentials. Doing your laundry on your parents’ dime may be easier and cheaper than the local laundry dive, but your savings may disappear if you try to drag it all on the plane.

4. Use your computer: check in at home or work. The lines will be crazy at the airport anyway, so you’re actually paying yourself to have an easier trip. If this isn’t win-win defined, I don’t know what is.

5. Save a little, not a lot: pounce on reasonable fares. If you try to wait for the deal of the year, you could be stuck paying much more than you wanted. Pay a little more than you may want to pick up some predictability.

While you’re at it, start thinking about how to survive the annual airport gauntlet. For Christmas last year, I put together a list of ways to make your travel experience a bit easier. It may be worth another look.

Paypal offers 50$ rebates on NWA flights

If you’re flying anywhere in the next few months (say, Thanksgiving or oh, Christmas) and Northwest Airlines is an option, check out the 50$ rebate that Paypal is offering on bookings. You have to book between November 13th and 21st, but the terms and conditions don’t stipulate when you have to fly.

As with most other rebates, you’ll have to wait 6-8 weeks for your money to show up, but the benefit here is that you don’t have to fill in any paperwork or cash a check — the money just shows up in your account in a few weeks. And if you’re like myself and most of the other people out there on the interwebs, you’ve already got a Paypal account that’s linked to your bank; all you have to do is select the Paypal option, the money comes from the same place and you get 50$ back.

Make sure you follow the booking link before you pay.

Travelling by air this Christmas? Some tips

I’m typically a homebody when it comes to Christmas, but with our family now scattered, I’m spending Christmas away from home for the first time since I was 11. I’m looking forward to it — sort of. We’re going somewhere warmer, where there’s a hot tub and skiing and lots of good food. But travelling around Christmas time when everyone else is in a mad rush to get to their family too? Ugh.

Here are a few tips for travelling this Christmas:

  • Bring your cell phone charger with you in your carry-on — that way, you’ll have it in case you’re stranded or delayed by poor weather.
  • Don’t pre-wrap Christmas gifts if you’re travelling by air — they’ll be un-wrapped by security.
  • Arrive for your flight on time. And expect to wait in line anyway.
  • Book early. If you haven’t do so already, do it now.
  • Don’t bring your car to the airport — it will be packed. Take a cab or public transportation instead.
  • If you do bring your car to the airport, pack some blankets and pillows in the trunk. If you end up spending the night at the airport, you’ll be set.
  • Consider flying on Christmas day. The flights will be much cheaper.