Procrastinators Will Pay to Fly Home for the Holidays

By: Jodi Baker Email
By: Jodi Baker Email

Travel industry experts suggested that those traveling by air for the upcoming holidays book their flights by last week. While airfare is higher heading into this holiday season, gasoline prices for drivers are on a downward trend.

Travel booking website Travelocity recently surveyed airfare prices for the week surrounding Thanksgiving and found that the average booking cost $386, taxes included. That's nine-percent higher than last year. If consumers manage to beat that price, they should consider themselves fortunate.

The best time to book is generally mid-week. And consumers should avoid traveling on peak days, including: November 21, 25 and December 22, 23 and 26, as well as January 2.

Another way to save, travel experts say, is to ship gifts and other packages ahead of time. That way travelers aren't stuck with extra baggage fees.

According to an American Express survey, higher costs aren't keeping people from traveling this year. On the average, people plan on spending more, $773 compared with $659 last year. And holiday overall travel is expected to increase by 7-percent. Air travel is expected to increase by 6-percent, despite higher ticket prices.

Sandy Semerad, plans on driving from Omaha to Cherokee, Iowa for Thanksgiving and Christmas. She's happy with the downward trend she's seen, in terms of gasoline. "It would be nice if they stayed low," said Semerad, "But either way... you gotta go home. So I guess you pay the price no matter what."

Analysts with said Sunday's average price per gallon in the Omaha metro area was $3.33. That's an increase of a penny over the past week, while national prices have gone down nearly 6-cents in the same time frame.

Nationally, prices are 7-cents lower than they were a year ago. And in the Omaha metro, prices are nearly 43-cents lower than they were one year ago.

"Even with Hurricane Sandy causing havoc on refineries and infrastructure in the Northeast, gasoline prices nationally have continued to trend lower," said Senior Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan. "It goes to show how much more significant the Gulf Coast is to this nation's energy backbone when such a massive storm causes no major rise in the national average."

DeHaan added, "The good news is that average prices will likely continue to decline, perhaps to $3.35/gal nationally by Thanksgiving."

Airfare is only expected to go up from this point. But frequent traveler Sarah Cutler, passing through Eppley Airfield, said, "If you look hard enough, you can still get a really good deal. Sometimes you have to adjust by a day or two, but it's not that bad."

Another Eppley traveler, Andrea Caswel, said a little inconvenience is worth it. "When you look at $500 for a trip rather than $900 or $1,000 for the same trip, yeah, it takes you a little bit longer. But it's definitely easier on the wallet especially during the holidays."

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