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03 December

传阅:Tips for Last-Minute Holiday Travel

Stephanie Rosenbloom

Planning to travel over the holidays? Still haven’t made reservations? It’s not too late to find an affordable Thanksgiving or Christmas getaway. You might even end up saving more on a hotel than travelers who booked when it was still beach weather. And while airlines have a captive audience this time of year, there are ways to save. So here’s to the dawdlers and spur-of-the-moment decision makers. This procrastinator’s guide to holiday travel is for you.

Go Where the Deals Are

If you want to take a vacation during the holidays, head to Europe.

“Europeans tend to stay at home for the Christmas holiday,” said Gabe Saglie, a senior editor at Travelzoo. That means there are hotel deals to be had in popular destinations. For example, in Paris at Le Méridien Étoile near the Champs-Élysées, rooms at Christmastime are $149 a night on Travelzoo.com and include an upgrade and a 20 percent discount on food. In Rome, at the Berg Luxury Hotel, near the Via Veneto, you can book a room on Travelzoo through Christmas Day for $126 a night for two-night stays (or $113 a night for three nights or more). Rates include an upgrade, daily breakfast for two, a bottle of wine and discounts at the bar.

“The big secret for both Thanksgiving and Christmas is it is absolutely true that airfare is more expensive but hotels are a lot cheaper,” said Sarah Gavin, a senior editor at Expedia.

Travelers who waited until December last year to book a hotel room saved about $60 a night compared with those who booked a room in August through October, according to research by Hipmunk.com.

Alas, flights to Europe from the United States are not as affordable. To compare fares try Google Flight Search, which also tells you how much money you’ll save if, say, you depart a day earlier or fly into a different airport.

“The absolute best way to find a low airfare now is Google Flights,” said George Hobica, founder of airfarewatchdog.com. (One caveat: Google Flight Search does not include Southwest Airlines.)

For international flights Mr. Hobica recommends Momondo.com. “They’ll find combinations of flights that you won’t find anywhere else,” he said.

If you prefer to vacation domestically, visit a major business city like New York or Chicago. “Big urban destinations really rely on business travelers,” Ms. Gavin said. And during the holidays leisure travelers can snap up great prices at the high-end hotels that usually cater to executives.

“Thanksgiving to Christmas can be a bargain proposition because the business traveler is not booking those hotels,” Mr. Saglie said.

Travelers seeking warm weather may want to consider Las Vegas. New Year’s Eve will cost you, but there’s a sweet spot between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when rates drop. If you stay over Thanksgiving weekend, the nightly rate will surely jump, but the low cost of the days surrounding that could average out to an affordable week. “Rates will drop in Vegas one day to the next 60 to 70 percent,” Mr. Saglie said.

To help you decide where and when to travel, use airline fare calendars. For instance, Southwest has a low-fare planning calendar at Southwest.com/flight/shortcut/low-fare-search.html. Yet don’t get swept away. “Just because it’s cheap airfare doesn’t mean it’s the most affordable flight,” said Mr. Saglie. You have to factor in incidentals like the cost of checking bags. And multiple stops, which can make flights cheaper, may also ruin a trip because you’re gambling with winter weather. Opt for southern connection points: Dallas, not Chicago. And be sure to leave plenty of time to make a connecting flight; in certain airports you may have to go through security upon landing.

To see if the first leg of your flight is likely to arrive on time, check FlightAware, which lists performance history. “You can see flights on-time over a four-month period,” Mr. Hobica said.

Travel on “Off” Days

Airfares and hotel room rates are typically lower during the week. And fly early, when many families are home sleeping. “Take the 5:30 or 6 a.m. flight,” Ms. Gavin said, “because so many people are traveling with kids. You can get much better deals on those flights than a 9 or 10 a.m. departure.”

You can also get a deal by flying on a holiday. On Thanksgiving, fares can be 30 percent below average for domestic flights and 15 percent below average for international flights, according to research from Kayak.com. If you can’t do that, try traveling well in advance or after a holiday. “The Monday before Thanksgiving will be cheaper than the Tuesday,” Mr. Saglie said. Christmas is tricky. Instead of flying Dec. 21 (among the most expensive days), try Dec. 23, 24 or 25.

Airlines often have sales on Tuesdays. And last-minute bargains are not out of the question. For hotel rooms, try a last-minute booking app like Hotel Tonight. Such apps can save you 15 to 40 percent, said Ms. Gavin. If flights are not full in the days before Christmas, you might nab a deal on airfare, but be prepared to have a middle seat, a flight at the crack of dawn, or multiple stops.

“It’s kind of like going to Marshalls at the end of the sale,” Mr. Hobica said. “You’ll end up with the orange sweater.”

Fly Where There’s Competition

Airline competition is great for your wallet. From New York, for example, you’ll find good fares to Nashville, Las Vegas, Chicago and Los Angeles, according to Airfarewatchdog. The site recently found a nonstop, round-trip flight from Kennedy International Airport to McCarran International in Las Vegas leaving Dec. 23 and returning on New Year’s Day for $344 on Delta.

“The regular, nonpeak rates are so low that the peak fares are reasonable, even for holiday travels,” Mr. Hobica said.

And keep an eye on Frontier Airlines. “Wherever Frontier competes with other airlines you’ll see some amazing fares,” he said. He recently found a $284 fare on Frontier from Chicago to Washington departing Nov. 26 and returning Nov. 29. On Kayak the cheapest fare he found was $712. In other words: Don’t forget low-cost carriers.

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Choose Smaller Airports

At Christmastime last year the average ticket from Los Angeles International Airport to Kennedy International Airport was $565, according to analysts at Expedia. Alternatively, if you fly from Los Angeles International Airport to La Guardia Airport, the route is $492. Instead of flying to Reagan National Airport from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, fly into Baltimore and you’ll save about $100, according to Expedia. Or fly into Washington Dulles International Airport and save around $80.

Ms. Gavin estimates that you generally save 10 to 20 percent on airfare when flying to and from big metro areas where you can choose between airports.

Bundle Up

“Sometimes package deals are cheaper because they don’t have 7-day or 14-day advance purchase requirements on the airfare,” Mr. Hobica said. He recalled a JetBlue hotel and flight package that was so affordable, it paid to buy it even though the traveler who purchased it only used the flight portion.

Ms. Gavin said the average savings for travel bundles is $540. For bundles with resort stays in places including Mexico and Las Vegas it’s more like $800 to $1,200. One reason for the big discounts is that hotels can put their rooms on fire sale yet not reveal the nightly rate. “They can give a really good discount and still protect that public pricing,” Ms. Gavin said.

Mr. Saglie also likes bundling but advises travelers to research the hotel part.

“Just make sure that where the company is sending you,” he said, “is a place you would have picked anyway.”

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