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VOL. 130 | NO. 219 | Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Wiedower

Lance Wiedower

Holiday Travel Projections Up

By LANCE WIEDOWER

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Americans might have more reasons to travel this holiday season as airfare trends continue to work in favor of the consumer.

Jet fuel prices have declined nearly 35 percent this year, and airfares this summer saw the biggest fare decline in 20 years, leading to projections that the end of the year would continue to see those falling prices.

Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away, but last-minute specials can provide rare deals for travelers, particularly those with flexible travel dates and destinations.

And for those travelers considering Christmas or New Year’s travel, now is the time to book your airfare, according to Cheapair.com’s analysis of the best time to buy airfare.

CheapAir looks at the top 15,000 markets where customers live and like to fly to, and watch fares between those cities over a year. In 2014 that was 1.5 billion airfares.

The prime booking window is 27 to 114 days in advance. The best day to purchase airfare this year is 47 days in advance, putting now as the time to buy for Christmas and New Year’s week travel.

Fares do get more expensive the closer to travel once within the 47-day window, particularly shooting up once inside of 14 days. Tickets bought within 14 days were $111 more, on average, than those bought further in advance, according to CheapAir. Tickets bought within seven days were $174 more.

It’s likely the only Thanksgiving deals will be of the random, last-minute sale variety. So if you’re looking to travel somewhere specific, it might be better to drive.

Travelers who already have booked airfare are looking at good deals, according to the Orbitz Insider Index, which reported in late October that airfares have decreased by 9 percent this year. The average price of Thanksgiving airfare to Orbitz’s top 10 travel destinations is $369, down 9 percent from 2014.

The busiest day to travel for Thanksgiving is Nov. 25, the day before the holiday. The least busy travel day is Monday, Nov. 30.

Chicago is projected as the top destination with an average airfare of $325, which is down 17 percent year to date. Orlando is $326 with a 10 percent year-to-date decline, and Los Angeles is the third-best destination with an average airfare of $385, a decline of 8 percent.

The remainder of the top 10 destinations for Thanksgiving travel is New York, Cancun, Las Vegas, Denver, San Francisco, Dallas and Washington.

Many of the top destinations for American travelers over the upcoming Christmas season are the same, with Los Angeles, Orlando, Cancun, Denver and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., leading the way. Chicago, which is the seventh-most popular destination, is the most affordable of the top destinations, at $369 per ticket.

The average price of Christmas airfare this year is $493, down 4 percent from 2014. The busiest day for Christmas travel will be Dec. 23, with the least crowded day Dec. 27.

Ski trips to Colorado might be more affordable this year. The average airfare to Denver is projected to be down 7 percent from last year, and hotel rates will be down an average of 17 percent.

Lance Wiedower can be reached at tripsbylance.com.

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