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BBB: Not too late to save money on holiday air travel

  • Special to The Eagle
  • Published Friday, Nov. 1, 2013, at 10:41 a.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, at 6:03 a.m.

Without a doubt, many travelers have already made their reservations for the upcoming holidays.

For those who have yet to do so, here is some advice to ease some of the strain on your pocketbook, as well as on your psyche. Unfortunately, the holidays usually offer many stress points of both types.

Consider the following tips as you plan your travel and perhaps your ride will be a little less bumpy.

Now’s the time

Traditionally, after mid-October, fares rise dramatically. Kayak, the travel metasearch site, says Christmas airfares can climb as much as 51 percent in this period, while Thanksgiving fares may rise by 17 percent. Waiting even a few days can be costly.

While travel experts advise that there is little time left for choosiness, there are online tools available if you want to consider airfare trends. A website called Bing Travel’s Price Predictor can help you decide whether there is a chance for a beneficial fluctuation. The AirfareWatchdog site can send you e-mail alerts for flights on whatever route you are considering.

Many travelers rely on online discount travel sites. They can be convenient for speedy transactions and some savings in price.

But some experts say that there are advantages to booking your flight directly with the airline. One of those advantages is that you may get a refund in the form of a voucher if your airfare price drops after your booking, but only if you booked directly with the airline.

Planning your schedule

Be as flexible as possible about your flight dates.

Forbes.com says that although Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays traditionally have cheaper flights, flying on the actual holiday can be even cheaper. Lines can be shorter as well if you fly on Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s Day.

Orbitz.com estimates that the average airfare on Thanksgiving Day is $406. Compare that to the average fare for the preceding day: $499.

The deals get even better for Christmas, when Christmas Eve flights average $408 compared to $591 on the preceding Saturday.

Compare prices with a large and a smaller airport and you will probably find the smaller airport is cheaper. Again, the fact that it will be less crowded and the lines shorter will also lessen the hassle.

If your route has to include a connecting flight then you may want to start the day on the earliest flight possible. That way you have less chance to encounter a delay that makes your connection a difficult one. The ripple effect that airline delays can have makes late-day flights much riskier for disruption.

A useful app that lists upcoming flights in the event of a cancellation is NextFlight.

Reducing stress

Travelers with small children may want to sit as close to the restroom in the back as possible, according to Forbes.com. It can be easier to flag down flight attendants there and the potential for restless children disrupting other passengers is lessened when you are seated in the back row.

Some airports have play areas that can be better for waiting with kids rather than at the gate. Do an Internet search for “play area” and your airport’s name to find out whether that option is available.

Last December, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there were 4.15 mishandled bag reports per 1,000 passengers. That number is higher than those for other months and should give you a reason to consider carrying on your baggage instead of checking it whenever possible.

As is the case with all aspects of holiday travel, the security lines at airports can be more time consuming than at other times of the year. Be prepared for long waits and arrive extra early at the airport.

Having a friend drive you or taking a taxi can save you airport-parking fees.

Denise Groene is state director of the Better Business Bureau of Kansas. Reach the BBB at 800-856-2417 or www.kansasplains.bbb.org.

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