Quick Tips for Smart Holiday Travel

The Fareologists at Bing Travel have issued a preliminary outlook for the 2010 holiday season predicting similar holiday travel pricing as last year. In 2009, airfares and hotel rates remained low as a way to reinvigorate consumer travel during a tough economy.

This year, the same opportunities exist for people looking to see family or take a vacation during the 2010 holiday travel season.

Bing Travel Fareologists uncovered 2010 airfare for Thanksgiving travel to domestic destinations averages $310, down 3 percent from 2009, but down 13 percent when compared with 2008 fares.

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Christmas and New Year’s holiday airfare to domestic destinations averages $368, up only 2 percent from this same period in 2009 and even with 2008 fares.

This marks the first time since the initial Farecast Holiday Forecast in 2007 that airfares have swung less than 10 percent in one direction.

“What has been a seesaw of fares over the past few years — from sky high to rock bottom — is finally finding its balance point,” said Chief Fareologist David Lindheimer, Global Lead for Bing Travel. 

“Airlines have made the right capacity cuts and are now consistently filling their planes, which has evened out fares. Though holiday flights are pretty reasonable now, prices will increase as more people finalize and book their holiday travel.”

Nationally (in the U.S.), the average ticket for the most popular Thanksgiving itinerary — Wednesday departure, Sunday return — is favorable this year averaging $397, down $34 from 2009 and down $65 from 2008.

Travelers who can stay flexible with their Thanksgiving travel dates will likely be rewarded with savings. For example, traveling on Thanksgiving morning and returning on the following Saturday instead of Sunday can yield a savings of $84 per ticket.

Nationally, the ticket for the most popular Christmas itinerary — Thursday departure, Sunday return — could cost $403 on average, up $14 from 2009. If you want to save some money during Christmas, traveling back on Saturday saves about $67 per ticket.

The holiday travel season can be intimidating because of heavy volumes and inclement weather, Bing warns.

Here are some Bing Travel tips to help make travel this holiday season a little bit easier:

  • Watch early October for holiday price drops. Since 2006, most Christmas itineraries saw price drops in the first two weeks of October. If you can’t book that early, there will likely be more deals.
  • Be flexible. Travelers can save big by avoiding the busiest travel days during both Thanksgiving and Christmas. For example, you can save more money by shifting your outbound travel date for Christmas. More specifically, avoiding the popular Wednesday or Thursday before Christmas departure days can save approximately $15 to $70 per ticket.
  • Use available tools. Most airfare price drops last less than 48 hours, so travelers need to be ready to jump when a fare falls. Travelers with specific travel dates in mind and for whom flexibility isn’t an option are advised to set Bing Travel Fare Alerts that will notify them if the fares for their trips drop, allowing them to catch the best fares.
  • Avoid travel surcharges. Many airlines have imposed holiday surcharges. Making airfare and hotel purchases in the fall as opposed to waiting until closer to the holidays is the best tactic to avoid these charges. In addition, many airlines charge extra fees for a variety of things, from checking baggage, having overweight baggage, receiving pillows or meals, and getting aisle or exit row seats. Make sure to be well informed about your airlines’ fees.

If traveling home for the Christmas holiday is not in your plan this year, Kristen Kennedy, managing editor of Bing Travel at Microsoft, offers several destinations that are worth a visit. They include New York City, Chicago, Eleuthera, Bahamas, Denver, and London.

Microsoft designed Bing as a Decision Engine to provide people with better search tools.

Photo courtesy: Microsoft

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