Q: I usually use the 21-day rule when booking a flight and have found some great fares. I was told that it doesn’t apply during the holidays. Is this true? — via Internet
A: Yes it is. Normally, booking a flight 21 days before your trip will ensure reduced prices and even some great bargains, particularly if you shop around — with a travel agent or online. After that period, fees can rise considerably.
During the holidays, however, the airlines impose blackout periods — these are blocks of days when airfares are significantly raised. “They know they have a captive audience, so they really take advantage,” says travel expert Michael Bennett. In fact, Bennett says if you haven’t already booked your flight for the holidays, not only are you going to pay exorbitant prices, you may not be able to get a flight.
“This is going to be one of the worst travel holidays we’ve seen in a long time — particularly for the hot spot locations, such as Florida, the Caribbean, Hawaii, and even Las Vegas,” explains Bennett. “Domestic flights to other locations will not be as challenging, but they will cost you.”
If you are a last-minute booker, he suggests that you don’t delay any longer. Because both Christmas and New Year’s fall on a Wednesday this year, blackout periods extend to the weekends before and after the holidays, through Jan. 6. If you’re beginning your search late, Bennett suggests using a travel agent with a large travel company. “Because they buy in volume, they would have access to more information and could offer the lowest possible price. They would also be better equipped to find a flight.”
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