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Holiday travel: Procrastinators will pay this year, expert says

Updated: Thursday, October 31 2013, 09:50 AM EDT
NEW YORK (CBS News) -- If you're planning to fly for the holidays, don't wait to buy your ticket. Procrastinators are going to pay an even higher penalty this year if they wait, CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg explained on "CBS This Morning."

The Wall Street Journal reports Thanksgiving week flights in the U.S. and the Caribbean cost 9.4 percent more than last year, and Christmas week fares are up 7.3 percent.

Greenberg explained price for holiday air travel also depends on when you want to fly. He said, "If you want to fly the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, remember, they made a movie about that. It was called 'Planes, Trains, and Automobiles' with John Candy and Steve Martin. If you can, try to fly out on the morning of Thanksgiving, and don't fly back on Sunday. You'll pay higher rates again. Try to come back on Friday or Saturday when everybody else is at the mall -- and you'll get a 10 percent reduction in fares."

The issue for air travelers is capacity, Greenberg explained. "In the past, the airlines could blame this on factors they couldn't control like fuel prices," he said. "This year, it's about the factors they can control -- that means how many planes they're flying and how many seats they're offering. They've shrunk capacity almost across the United States, and as a result, you've got more people competing for fewer seats. The planes are full, in fact, they're flying at about 85 percent load factors -- that's about well, essentially, full, and the planes haven't flown this full since 1945."

The trend is likely to continue, Greenberg said, because airlines are fighting for "high-yield" travelers. "The airlines are no longer fighting for traffic they didn't want in the first place. They're looking for ... business-class travelers where the money is. So cities in Brazil are going to start trumping prices like Orlando (in price)."

Among the cities most affected by the hikes are Tampa, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York City, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.

So how can you cut the cost of your travel this year? Greenberg recommends changing when you fly. "The week after Thanksgiving is traditionally the dead week. Nobody flies then. You can own the airlines. Same the week of New Year's."

If you plan to travel on Thanksgiving, Greenberg said, "leave on Thanksgiving morning and come back on Friday or Saturday. You will save money."

Travelers who decide to go outside the U.S. may also get a discount. "The attractive places are in Europe," Greenberg said. "They don't know from Thanksgiving. They don't know from Turkey Day. And the airlines still have to fly those planes because of bilateral agreements with governments. Those planes will be relatively empty."

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Getty ImagesHoliday travel: Procrastinators will pay this year, expert says


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