Looks like we're in for another expensive holiday travel season, Priceline.com reports, with the average national airfare for the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons trending about 3 percent higher than last year.
Currently, Priceline.com says the national average for Thanksgiving domestic airfares is $393, compared to $382 last year. The national average for Christmas domestic airfares is $430, versus $420 last year. Priceline.com calculated the average airfares based on published-price domestic round-trip airline tickets already purchased by customers for holiday 2012 travel.
"The number of available seats for holiday travel is still down due to flight reductions and airline mergers," said Priceline.com's Travel Expert Brian Ek. "That reduces the chances that holiday fares are going to drop. Travelers who already know their holiday plans would be wise to book well before Halloween in order to get the most choice in flights and seats."
Every year, Priceline.com notes it publishes a continuously updating Best Days To Fly calendar showing the days when travelers are most likely to find affordable fares. The calendar can be found at www.priceline.com/bestdays.
According to Priceline, the most affordable travel days (currently) for the upcoming holidays:
• The most affordable days to fly over the Thanksgiving holiday are November 19, 22, 27, 28, 29 and 30. Other moderately priced days to consider are November 18 and 23.
• The most affordable days to fly over the Christmas holidays are December 17, 18, 25, and January 1. Other moderately priced days to consider are December 15, 16, 19, 23, 24, 27, 31, and January 2.
Priceline.com's Ek also offered consumers some additional tips to help find cheaper airfares and keeping travel costs down after the airfare is booked.
• Pick times of the day that are normally less busy. Time of day is important. Travelers will find the most affordable seats departing early in the morning (5-7 a.m.) or late evening (after 8 p.m.). Mid-day (11 a.m.-4 p.m.) is a bit more expensive, but still reasonable. Most expensive are the peak business travel hours (8-10 a.m. and 5-7 p.m.).
• Send those presents on ahead. You see presents; the airlines see extra baggage and maybe some extra fees. Not to mention how unhappy the security screeners will be to see those wrapped boxes. Save yourself the hassle by mailing or shipping presents in advance (after you've wrapped them, of course).
• Weigh and measure your baggage. Check your airline's maximum requirements for checked and carry-on bags to make sure you won't incur extra fees. Note: baggage fees are charged separately for your outbound and return flights.