Add expensive airfare to your holiday budget

If you are planning to travel over the winter holidays and haven't already bought your air tickets, you may be in for a rude surprise. Wall Street Journal columnist Scott McCartney reports in this week's Middle Seat that most of the affordable air tickets have already been snapped up, and prices continue to climb every day. In short, if you haven't yet purchased your holiday airfare, do it now.

Many factors have contributed to this year's expensive situation: Rising fuel prices, high demand on many routes, expected delays as wintry weather settles in, and early bookings. According to several experts from Travelocity, FareCompare.com, and BestFares.com, travelers were buying tickets on average about 85 days in advance of the holidays, and tickets sold were up nearly five percent over last year.

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You can still find some deals, however, if you're willing to go on off-peak days or times. In the past, we've advocated traveling a few days before and after the actual holiday; that strategy seems to offer the best prices in this very tight market. My sister snagged a good deal to Paris for the December holiday period—but she's flying out on Christmas Day. Being flexible seems to be the best bet for getting a good fare.

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