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Holiday Travel 2010: Deals Are Still Out There

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Don’t let cost worries force you to stay home this holiday season. Even if you haven’t already made your holiday travel plans, deals on seats, rooms, and packages are still out there. You may have to pay more than last year, but that’s true of travel, generally.

For many of you, holiday travel dates and destinations are pretty well constrained by family considerations. If you’re in that situation, the best you can do is look for the best deals in whatever airfares and destination accommodations you need. {{{SmarterBuddy|align=left}}}

If your main problem is the airfare, as usual, the industry information sources have zeroed in on the best days to travel:

  • Priceline posts its by-now-familiar calendar marking days when airfares are expected to be at their highest and lowest over the holiday season. The best days, says Priceline, are December 20 to 22, 25, and 29, plus January 1. Priceline’s current posting doesn’t go beyond that date, but you’ll see more later. December 28 and 30 are “good” days, as are Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday throughout December.
  • The online website FareCompare posts similar dates, based on booking trends.
  • My colleagues at SmarterTravel publish regular email bulletins about the latest airfare and destination deals—sign up at

In general, these “best days” postings are based on actual air ticket purchases. As such, they’re subject to change as buying patterns change. Even so, however, if you know where you want to go, the postings are a good guide to keeping the costs as low as possible.

If you aren’t fenced in by fixed family considerations, you can take advantage of whatever last-minute and specialty deals that might intrigue you. Here are some places to look:

  • If you’re interested in visiting a big city, you can often find some very good deals in upscale hotels. Business travel—still weak because of the lousy economy—traditionally dries up from mid-December through the first week in January, and business hotels in major cities often offer incentives. Some are straight rate cuts, although many try to fill their rooms with various “value added” shopping and Nutcracker packages rather than actually slicing the prices.
  • Airlines and tour operators often still have some air-hotel packages available to popular destinations even after the airlines and hotels are sold out of low-price options.
  • The several “private sale” sites, including JetSetter, RueLaLa, SniqueAway, and Vacationist, apparently still have some packages available during the holidays. Typically, these sites offer discounted prices on luxury-level accommodations, and are a good choice if you’re willing to choose from a limited set of options.
  • If accommodations loom as a major problem, check vacation rentals. Often those rentals—especially those tailored to business travelers—have plenty of vacancies during the holidays.
  • Take a look at last-minute cruise offerings. Check online with good information sources such as CruiseCritic or a cruise agency.
  • If you’re really having trouble finding the holiday trip you want—or if you aren’t big on Internet searches—a good travel agent can be a big help. Those folks pretty much know what’s available online; they often may know of sources and techniques that you wouldn’t find on your own or on the Internet.

As always, flexibility is the key to finding good holiday deals. You’ll undoubtedly find a variety of destinations and accommodations available, and unless you’re extremely fussy, you should find something you’ll like. However, there comes a time when being where you want, when you want, takes precedence over finding a rock-bottom price. Seek out the best deal you can find, but in the final analysis, make sure you get the trip you really want.

Your Turn

Have you found any great holiday travel deals? Share your finds by adding a comment below!

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