Chris Ramirez, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 19, 2012
There isn't a hint of snow or mistletoe out there yet, but experts say it's never too early to map out your holiday travel plans.
Their advice - think ahead.
Last month, an estimated 33 million American traveled at least 50 miles during Labor Day weekend, a post-recession high, according to AAA. Yet, nearly three times as many people are expected take to the nation's highways and airports during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season.
For those who will be flying, Courtney Scott, senior editor for Travelocity, recommends that you be flexible on your departure time and date to snag the best fare.
Traveling on the day of a holiday is even better. Fares tend to be cheaper, and airports typically are less congested.
"Thanksgiving and Christmas Day are some of the slowest of the year for the airlines," Scott says. "Flying on the holiday ... isn't ideal for everyone, but if you can make it work, you'll save big bucks."
Now might also be a good time to set up alerts from your favorite travel websites so you can be notified the minute a low-dollar fare is posted.
If tight spaces on small airplanes make you uncomfortable, get used to it. Things aren't expected to change any time soon.
Regional airlines, which typically use smaller jets and more fuel-efficient prop planes, account for more than 50 percent of the nation's commercial air traffic, according to the Regional Airline Association.
That trend will only increase, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, which projects the airline industry will grow 2 percent to 3 percent each year during the next 20 years. The agency expects the volume of passengers to increase from 731 million passengers last year to 1.2 billion by 2032.
Airlines announce on your ticket the type of aircraft you will fly.
"If you're claustrophobic or get uneasy in a small area for too long, that's something you're going to want to pay attention to," says Bob Thompson, manager of Ambassador Travel in McCandless.
When planning your trip, make sure to give yourself plenty of time between connecting flights, at least an hour or two to make connections.
"A lot of flights get delayed," says Sarah Schlichter, editor for IndependentTraveler.com, a travel-guide website based in Pennington, N.J. "Even a 20-minute delay can make a difference if you only have 35 minutes to make the next flight.
"You may be able to run and make it, but your bags might not."
Chris Ramirez is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at [email protected] or 412-380-5682. ___
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