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Posted: 6:00 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013

When and how to book holiday travel

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By Clark Howard

ClarkHoward.com


MONEY SAVING MOMENT:
Heads up, holiday travelers. It's time to book your  travel.

Thanksgiving can be a more challenging time to find deals than Christmas, so it's advisable to purchase it now, or risk losing your chance for a reasonable fare.

For Christmas travel this year, experts advise you should try to book by October 16.

Seasoned travelers know that you'll pay top dollar (up to 30-50% more) to fly on the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The same goes for the Sunday and Monday after Thanksgiving.  So why not consider flying on Thanksgiving day? You can still be there by dinnertime! Fares will be significantly lower that day, as well as the Saturday just after the holiday.

The good news is that airfare prices have stabilized after years of adjustments in the industry. Plus, bookings are soft this year, so you may not see the degree of sticker shock you've seen in recent times.

Another bonus is that this year, Christmas and New Year's Day fall on Wednesday, one of the cheapest travel days of the week!  This gives travelers a lot more flexibility with dates than usual--and the deals will reflect that.

Kayak.com is a great site for comparing fares. If you have any flexibility in your plans, you can use their Flexible Search option to indicate how many days "before" or "after" your ideal date you'd be willing to travel. You'll see a list of fares for each day, and you'll notice that it can vary widely from day to day.

Southwest Airlines is my favorite discount airline to fly. But be aware: Southwest is NOT listed on Kayak searches, so you need to search fares on their company website.

Allegiant is another no-frills discounter to consider. And if you really, really need to save money--and don't mind traveling in bare bones conditions--give Spirit Airlines a try. It might feel like Soviet-era cargo plane, but at least your wallet won't complain.

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