Time to talk turkey about holiday travel plans: 3 tips for booking a deal

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Now's the time to start your sky-bound sleuthing.

New Orleans (WGNO) – It’s that time of year: if you’re planning to fly during the holidays, now’s the time to start looking for deals.

Here are three tips from our Travel Girl, Stephanie Oswald, who also happens to be the editor-in-chief of Travelgirl Magazine.

Rule No. 1: It’s an oldie but a goodie: “He who hesitates is lost.” Or we could say, “You snooze, you lose.”

When you see a deal, jump on it. Don’t wait for something better to come along. Know your budget, and do your homework to figure out what a “deal” really is for the destination you’re headed to — then snag the ticket when the price is right.

Sometimes, waiting just a day can cost you a pretty penny.  Sites such as Airfarewatchdog, Kayak, and Expedia are great places to start your sky-bound sleuthing — but if you have a frequent flyer relationship with a particular airline, head to the airline’s homepage to make your final purchase when you see a price that matches your research, and your budget.

Common sense in the world of travel dictates that from here on out, barring the spontaneous “flash sale,” the prices will be rising, not falling.

Rule No. 2: I call it the “Rubber band rule,” as in, be flexible like a rubber band. Stretch your mind to consider alternate airports, not just the one that’s closest or that you’ve flown into for the past 10 years.

For example, there are three major NYC area airports (JFK, LaGuardia and Newark)… but while you’re at it, research the prices for White Plains (HPN), Newburgh (SWF) or even Albany (ALB) depending on where exactly you’re headed.

Flexible timing is key too. Can you adjust your work schedule or take the kids out of school a day early in order to avoid the crunch of holiday travel?  (Not a popular plan from a teacher’s standpoint, but it could save you hundreds of dollars.)

Consider flying on the actual holiday and suggest your family celebrate the next day. From my experience, even flying on Christmas Day can be a lot of fun!

Rule No. 3: Call it splits to book your flights. Yes, you need tickets for all five members of your family, but do you really need to sit together during the flight? Whatever the answer, booking your tickets one at a time could save you money.

Airlines sell a certain number of seats in each price range, so booking one at a time means you’re sure to get the lowest price available at the time for any one seat. If you search for your entire group at once, you may be losing the opportunity to get at least some of your seats at a lower price.

This takes longer, and it may mean that you will need to seat-juggle at the airport, or actually sit separately — but if it means more money for souvenirs and holiday spending, isn’t it worth it?

P.S. Some good news for travelers:  a proposal released Tuesday by the U.S. Transportation Department would require airlines to refund fees when checked bags are “substantially delayed.” This is part of bigger consumer protection plan initiated by the Obama administration. The exact timing that would constitute a delay worth of a refund has yet to be announced.

Follow our Travel Girl on Twitter @TravelgirlSteph and on Instagram @stephanieoswaldwgno.

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