Haven’t Booked Your Thanksgiving Travel Yet? Hotwire Says You’re Not Alone

According to new data from Hotwire.com, 78% of Americans who plan to travel for Thanksgiving have not yet made their travel plans as of October 26. We’re hoping they’ve booked by now, but if you’re one of those crazy people waiting for the last minute to make your car rental, air reservation or hotel stay, we’ve got some tips to help you out.

The number of travelers who haven’t made reservations yet is actually less than last year (82%), but airfare and hotel prices have risen.

“Booking last minute travel can be risky during these busy times, but it’s not impossible to nab a deal. Procrastinating travelers are just going to have to be a bit savvier and more vigilant in order to score savings over the next few weeks,” says Clem Bason, president of the Hotwire Group, in a release.

Here are some of their tips (with our additions):

Book your plane tickets ASAP. Airlines started hiking fares up just after Halloween. This is not the time to wait for a deal. If you must search for a deal …

Consider flying into an alternate airport that can offer cheaper fares (try this for cars too!). Consider Oakland in place of San Francisco, Ft. Lauderdale in place of Miami, or Baltimore in place of Washington, D.C. Seek out lower-cost airlines or those that have recently expanded routes to an area, as they’re likely to have more flights in case you get kicked off or the flight is canceled due to weather.

Avoid traveling on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after, as these are the most expensive days by far. You’re travelers. We think you know this already, but just in case you didn’t … there it is again.

When booking hotels, your smartphone can be the best place to find a great deal. Many hotels offer increasingly bigger discounts to fill their empty rooms the closer you get to your stay. Hotels are typically less full on Thanksgiving than on other holidays, so you may even get a great deal by waiting.

[Image Credit: epSos.de]

Mammoth Mountain offers Thanksgiving with all the trimmings

Want to hit the ski slopes this Thursday without sacrificing the traditional Thanksgiving dinner? Than consider adding California’s Mammoth Mountain to the list of your turkey day traditions. Several of the resort’s restaurants will be serving up plenty of great food throughout the day, giving you the opportunity to play in the fresh powder, while still celebrating the holiday to the fullest.

Mammoth’s Mountainside Grill has a new head chef, and the restaurant is eager to feature his new dishes. For Thanksgiving, they’ll be offering everything you’d expect to find on your table at home, including carved turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, candied yams, and of course pumpkin pie. The gourmet meal costs $50 for adults, $20 for children age 7-12, and kids under 6 eat free. The service also includes complimentary photos and supervised activities for the kids in a separate game room. Seatings are available at 2pm, 4pm, 6pm, and 8pm.

Skiers and snowboarders looking for something a bit more casual will find Thanksgiving dinner available at other Mammoth restaurants as well. The Hyde Lounge, Yodler Restaurant & Bar, and Lakefront Restaurant will all be offering a fixed menu of traditional items, such as turkey, cornbread dressing, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, and a selection of homemade pies.

If you’re headed to Mammoth on Thanksgiving, you’ll definitely want to take advantage of these great dining options. Travelers are encouraged to call ahead and make reservations however, as seating is limited and already going fast. Click here for more details.

Of course, don’t forget about the amazing skiing at Mammoth either. The resort has more than two feet of powder already on the ground, with more snow in the forecast. They’re also hurriedly finishing the famous Olympic size SuperDuper Pipe as well, which should open just in time for the holiday too.

Five reasons Thanksgiving travel will be miserable (by the numbers)

You may have gotten a break last year, but the 2010 Thanksgiving holiday will be a return for the norm. Fares are increasing, and traffic is following, as more passengers take to the skies thanks to a recovering economy. The Air Transport Association puts year-over-year Thanksgiving travel growth at 3.5 percent. This is enough to show the tide has turned, but it still doesn’t compensate for the ground lost to the recession.

With more people flying, you will probably find yourself fighting for the armrest, sitting next to someone in that middle seat (unless you’re the unlucky passenger) and struggling to cram your carry-on into the overhead bin.

Let’s take a look at five data points that point to an unpleasant Thanksgiving flying season, with information reported by Reuters:1. 24 million people will fly during the 12-day period around Thanksgiving (November 25, 2010)
2. Daily volumes will range from 1.3 million to 2.5 million
3. Planes will be running close to capacity, with load factors approaching 90 percent
4. Fares are headed up to 18 percent higher than last year (according to Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare)
5. There are fewer seats, with capacity down 10 percent from 2008 levels

Click here for six rules for air travel during the holiday season >>

[photo by Augapfel via Flickr]

Traveling over Thanksgiving? Here’s the best time to fly

The only thing that’s worse than traveling through congested airports and highways during the Thanksgiving season is the airfare that’s associated with it. Taking advantage of the demand, airlines perennially jack up the prices on everyday airfare, making the simplest of tickets outrageously expensive.

Naturally, the easiest way around these fares is to fly on lower-demand days, or not Tuesday and Sunday. To illustrate this, our friends over at Travelocity put together the above dandy chart to show the differences in fares among travel days. It’s pretty easy to see that the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving are the most expensive days to fly. Conversely, departing on Thanksgiving Day and returning on Tuesday, the 30th is most often the cheapest.

Bear in mind that the data above only applies to domestic routes — for travel to foreign countries (where there is no Thanksgiving), airfares can be drastically different and potentially even cheaper. More reason to spend the holidays abroad, we reckon.

DoT gives airlines $175,000 reminder ahead of Thanksgiving

Three airlines just scored a first with the U.S. government: they were fined for leaving passengers in the lurch. Continental Airlines, ExpressJet (a Continental affiliate) and Mesaba (part of Delta) racked up a total punishment of $175,000 when their combined efforts left fliers on a plane in Minnesota for six hours.

Continental and ExpressJet were slapped with a fine of $100,000, while Mesaba was nailed for $75,000, according to the Department of Transportation.

With the busiest travel day of the year right around the corner, the timing couldn’t have been better. Airlines that let their guards down could face stiff fines. And, let’s face it: these airlines can’t afford peanuts, let alone five- and six-figure fines.

On August 8, 2009, 47 passengers were stuck on a Continental Express plane, which was diverted to Rochester, Minnesota (the original plan was Houston to Minneapolis), where they were forced to spend the night. ExpressJet operated the flight, while Mesaba, the only airline working the airport, refused to let passengers leave the plane.