Holiday travel: Plan now for the best deal
Whether you're catching the red-eye
to see mom and dad, taking the kids to the in-laws or just want
to travel over the holiday, you'll get the best deal if you plan
"It's still better to book a trip 21 days in
advance, so now is the time to make plans," says Doug Stallings,
an editor at Fodor's.
To get the best deal on your air fare, it's important
to shop around. The Internet makes it easy. Check for online specials
from individual airlines, and then visit sites such as Travelocity,
Bestfares and Smarterliving.
"You can probably do that in half an hour,"
says Charles McCool, author of Winning
the Airfare Game. "You don't have to go crazy."
Riding rails to relaxation
If you're not in a hurry, why not travel by train? The whole
family gets to relax, including the often stressed-out designated
driver. And it's tough to top the view.
"You go to sleep looking at fields and you wake
up looking at mountains," says Don George, travel editor for
Lonely Planet Publications.
And it's a view of America that you can't get from
a passenger plane.
"Trains get you places that planes can't get
you to," George says. "You can get into little towns in
the heart of the country that planes can't get you to. When you
fly over and look down you don't really get a good sense of how
big and diverse this country is."
The Internet can help you research and plan a getaway
by rail. Trainweb
is a Web site with rail travel advice and vacation information.
But it's tough to land a super-low fare.
"There's no equivalent of consolidator air fares
in the train industry," George says. "It's really hard
to find really great deals, but it's worth investigating a couple
As with air fares, some of the best deals on rail travel
can be purchased online. Amtrak offers discounted tickets on a first-come,
first-serve basis to online customers. You may also want to check
out train fares available through a local travel agent.
Places to go -- other than home
If you won't be visiting relatives, you can still take advantage
of low fares and the holiday break.
"Budapest has a lovely Christmas market. Places
like Prague and Budapest, which are very expensive during the summer
travel season, are very inexpensive during the winter," says
Stallings. "Generally, during the winter it's cheaper to travel
to places where it's cold -- or at least not warm -- so think north."
Stallings says to get the best hotel deal, plan the
timing of your stay according to the type of place you visit.
"Hotels in cities are usually cheaper on the
weekends when business travelers aren't staying there, but hotels
in resort areas or other places that are popular with leisure travelers
are often cheaper during the week," says Stallings.
The same Web sites used for searching flights can
help you find the best hotel deals.
Really cheap travel
Even if you're on a skimpy budget, you could still afford to
get away. Stallings says to cut costs, plan a vacation close to
"There's almost always something interesting
to see in your own backyard," Stallings says. "Explore
the sites you might not normally visit, like a local museum or holiday
festival. Think about places that are within 100 to 200 miles from
home, where you can drive in a few hours. Look at the Web site for
cities' convention and visitors bureaus. They often highlight local
specials you might not read about in your own paper."
Make traveling fun
"The most important thing is to relax," says Stallings.
"If you become tense and angry at all the difficulties you
might face during a holiday flight, you'll bring out the bad side
So to make the most of your holiday travel, keep yourself
entertained. Travel with a book or magazine. Bring headphones and
listen to music.
"I always recommend people bring something to
distract and divert them while standing in line," George says.
"You're going to have a long wait."
Stallings also recommends packing a snack.
"Most airlines won't be serving any type of meal
on most flights and airport food is often bad and usually horribly
overpriced," says Stallings.
For a checklist on smooth holiday travel, check
out these holiday
-- Updated: Nov. 6, 2003