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Start Your Holiday Flight Search Now

I've been thinking a lot about holiday travel in the last few weeks. The frantic search for good airfares around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's can be a stressful way to herald the season. A few weeks ago, I rounded up eight ways to save on holiday travel, but I wanted to follow up with a look at how to time buying your ticket to maximize your chances of paying less, not more.

Rick Seaney over at FareCompare has a lot to say about holiday travel, but his timing advice boils down to: Book holiday travel by the end of October. Pair that with Bing Travel's research, which points to three years of price drops on holiday airfares during the first two weeks of October, and you'll have something nearing a time frame for booking: early- to mid-October. That means now is the time to start benchmarking prices for your flights, getting a sense of the price for your dates so you'll be able to tell if and when fares change.

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Unfortunately, there's also the additional $10 surcharge some airlines have tacked onto flights the Sunday after Thanksgiving and the two days after New Year's. The fact that some airlines are tacking on the surcharge while others aren't makes comparison shopping that much more important.

And what about those of you thinking about waiting until just before the holidays to book? Sure, you can always gamble and hold out for elusive but possibly much cheaper last-minute fares. But this method is really only going to work if you don't mind the added stress of uncertainty, and you either can afford to pay more at the last minute, or don't necessarily need to get somewhere specific for the holidays.

So even if you're not ready to book yet, if price is important, consider starting your search sooner rather than later.

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