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Flying for the holidays

If you haven't started your holiday shopping yet, it might be time to make that first purchase... by booking your flights home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Kelli Grant, Senior Consumer Reporter for SmartMoney.com tells how to navigate the quickly rising prices.


Prices for flights during the week of Thanksgiving are already 4% higher than last year, at an average $376. Airlines are also cutting capacity, which means there are fewer cheap seats this year. Book ASAP to avoid the jump as those less expensive seats fill up.

Be flexible with your travel days, especially on the return. Most airlines are tacking on a surcharge of up to $40 for flying on the Sunday or Monday after Thanksgiving; already the most expensive days to fly. You could save $100 or more by staying until Tuesday, or leaving as early as Black Friday.

Consider flying on the actual holiday. Prices on Thanksgiving Day are substantially cheaper than those on other days, because demand is low. This strategy is best used for shorter flights, so there's little risk of missing the turkey if there's a flight delay.

Consider a vacation for Thanksgiving. Most travelers can't expect fare sales for Thanksgiving, but there are a few flight deals for those bound for places like Florida, Hawaii or the Caribbean - which get less of that heading-to-Grandma's-house-for-Thanksgiving traffic. Sales are even better for the first two weeks in December, if you have any vacation days left.

Start looking to book for Christmas. Travelers still have another week or two to consider Christmas plans. But prices and demand are expected to be up from last year, and again, there will be fewer seats. So as long as you're booking, look ahead and see if you can find a good price.

For more information on planning holiday travel and other consumer tips click here.