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When to Buy Holiday Travel

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planeU.S. airlines are currently filling eight out of every ten seats, and this comes at a historically weak quarter. Airfares—thanks to fuel prices and reduced capacity—are much higher than they were last year at this time. And to make matters worse, the law of supply and demand will definitely not be in your favor this upcoming holiday season. There are, however, still ways to get a deal if you act quickly.

According to Priceline‘s Brian Ek, the main issue will be availability of tickets. Delta, American, Continental and United are all reducing 4th quarter flights. Thousands of seats that were available last holiday season no longer exist.

A recent study from Farecompare noted that for some of the most popular routes ticket prices are already up between 10 to 20 percent from last year. For a flight from New York to Los Angeles, purchased on October 12 for travel the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and returning the Sunday after the holiday, you will pay:

  • 14 percent more on American Airlines, up to $712 from $623
  • 19 percent more on Virgin American, up to $728 from $610
Orbitz also ran a study of the top ten destinations for Thanksgiving 2011 and their data had similar results. When compared to last year, they also saw a rise in ticket prices from two percent to 20 percent. But ticket prices did go down slightly for one of their top ten destinations, Chicago, where air fares are currently down 0.2 percent  and the average daily rate for a hotel is $154.94.
A recent airfare study by Kayak concluded that to secure the lowest fares for Thanksgiving 2011 you should purchase your ticket seven to eight weeks in advance.

But there are other ways to find savings.

There are great deals for travel to Europe and other international destinations during Thanksgiving – an “alternate Thanksgiving” if you will.

For example, you can fly to Paris from Los Angeles on American Airlines for Thanksgiving for $435, one way. And you can round trip from New York to London for $512 total.

And for some really good deals, travel during the dead weeks right after Thanksgiving and New Years. According to Hotwire, airfares during the first two weeks of December have been about 9 percent less on average for the past several years. In 2010, Dead Week fares were actually 11 percent cheaper than summer fares. We expect the same trend to occur this year.

For more holiday savings, check out:

By Lily J. Kosner for