Holiday deals still available for the flexible traveler
BY D.R. STEWART World Staff Writer
Saturday, October 13, 2012
10/13/12 at 5:01 AM
It's not too late to book Thanksgiving and Christmas travel, but flying during off-peak hours on the least-traveled days may be the only way to get a reasonably inexpensive fare, industry officials say.
"If you have flexibility, we can find something for you, but rates may be higher," said Susanne Estrada, a travel agent with Total Travel of Tulsa.
As an example, Estrada said she found a round-trip air fare from Tulsa to Kona, Hawaii, for a client on Thursday. The customer wanted to fly out on Dec. 26, returning on Jan. 1, Estrada said. The price: $1,689.
"But going Christmas Day and coming back on New Year's Eve saved $250 to $300," Estrada said.
Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA-Oklahoma, said the airlines have reduced flights and are flying smaller planes so seating capacity has been slashed from previous years' levels.
"It all depends on how flexible you are," Mai said. "If you can fly at 9 o'clock Christmas Day or the morning of Thanksgiving Day - or fly earlier and come back later - you can do some good. Everything's tightening up, but they aren't full."
Priceline.com, the online travel service, said the average national air fare for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons is about 3 percent higher than last year.
The national average for Thanksgiving domestic air fares is $393, compared with $382 last year.
The national average for Christmas domestic air fares is $430, up from $420 last year, priceline.com said.
"The number of available seats for holiday travel is still down due to flight reductions and airline mergers," said priceline.com spokesman 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."
Each year, priceline.com publishes a continuously updating "Best Days to Fly" calendar showing the days when travelers are most likely to find affordable fares.
Thanksgiving this year is Nov. 22, while Christmas is on a Tuesday.
Priceline.com says the most affordable travel days for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are:
"Airlines have to reposition aircraft," said Alexis Higgins, deputy airports director of marketing at Tulsa International Airport. "On Christmas Day, airlines will continue to operate flights with seats to sell so if people have some flexibility, they can travel off-peak."
- At Thanksgiving, Nov. 19, 22, 27, 28, 29 and 30. Other moderately priced days to travel are Nov. 18 and 23.
- At Christmas, Dec. 17, 18, 25 and Jan. 1. Other moderately priced days to consider are Dec. 15, 16, 19, 23, 24, 27, 31 and Jan. 2.
Nancy Winn, a travel agent with Travel Leaders/Spears Travel, said travelers will find more space and reasonable fares on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and on Dec. 31.
"Or travel earlier and come back those days," Winn said.
A day not to travel is Nov. 25, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, when all the flights are sold out, Winn said. There is some availability on Nov. 24, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, she said.
For those in the mood for a Christmas cruise, there are four cruise lines operating out of Galveston, Texas, this winter, double the number of a year ago.
Carnival Cruise Lines, Disney Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean Cruises are scheduling cruises from Galveston during the winter season.
"A lot of people from here drive down, spend the first night in Dallas, and then go down to Galveston the next day," Winn said.
Joe Dutton, owner of Dutton Travel, said holiday travelers also should consider packages that include air fare, lodging and transportation.
"Most are better deals - definitely better than buying an airline ticket alone," Dutton said.
Original Print Headline: Holiday deals still available for the flexible traveler
D.R. Stewart 918-581-8451