We're starting the new year right with some great sales. One of the best things about them is that travel is available through May in most markets.
The sales were launched by AirTran and Frontier, but other carriers are matching in competing markets.
AirTran has launched a systemwide sale for winter and spring travel with round-trip fares from Dallas as low as $124 to Tampa, Fla., $144 to Boston, $154 to New York and $168 to Cancun. Travel to and from Florida, Cancun, Aruba, Montego Bay, Nassau and San Juan is valid through March 10, and travel to and from other destinations is valid through May 26. Tickets must be purchased by Jan. 14, with a 10-day advance, and the cheapest days to travel are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Blackout dates apply. Contact: 1-800-247-8726; www.airtran.com/sale.
Frontier has a sale for travel through May 27, with sample round-trip fares from Dallas as low as $188 to Denver, $196 to Salt Lake City and $218 to Las Vegas or Phoenix. Taxes and fees are additional. Tickets must be purchased by Jan. 13, with a 10-day advance.
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The cheapest days to travel are Monday through Thursday. Blackout dates apply. Contact: 1-800-432-1359; www.frontierairlines.com.
If you're flying to your destination and you need a hotel, be sure to look at packages. We've recently seen deals from Dallas to New York City for three nights at a four-star hotel for as low as $699 per couple, departing on a Saturday in January and February. I have paid more than that for just the hotel in New York. We have also been seeing seven-night packages at a four-star hotel to Cancun for winter travel for $1,000 to $1,100 per couple. Prices on these are subject to change.
If you're planning to travel to Europe, there's a good chance fares will go down rather than up. Because of the Christmas Day terrorist incident, demand for travel to Europe may come down, in part because of increased time required for security lines abroad. In Nigeria, lines have had a minimum wait of seven hours, and the recommendation for Europe is to arrive at the airport four hours before your flight.
Another strike against travel to Europe is that the value of the dollar is down. If air-travel demand declines, prices should follow, so we could see some great fares to Europe in the coming weeks. Be sure to check fares on Wednesdays since that gives competing carriers a chance to match sales that come out on Tuesdays.
You may have read headlines about airfares increasing across the board, but these hikes mainly affect regional airports. They may be around for a short time, but these increases don't stick on routes where there's competition from low-fare carriers such as Southwest and AirTran.
In 2009, we had 14 successful increases, and if they had stuck in all markets, round-trip fares from Dallas to Tampa would be $290, but with the current sale they're as low as $124. If you take all of the fare increases we've seen since 2001, we would be paying over $1,000 to Florida. Fortunately for travelers, that's not the case.