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How to find Thanksgiving air travel deals

Tuesday - 11/8/2011, 4:05am  ET

Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel times at the airport. (AP)

Andrew Mollenbeck,

WASHINGTON Last-minute searches for Thanksgiving airfares are not so much about finding a deal as avoiding the premium prices.

"If you're not shopping for airline tickets already, you have to be shopping right now and buying soon," says Rick Seaney, co-founder and chief executive officer of

"Add anywhere from $5 to $10 to your virtual airline ticket every day you wait," he says.

Travelers have already been told to expect fewer seats and higher prices this holiday season.

The Air Transport Association's annual Thanksgiving travel forecast predicts a 2 percent year-over-year drop in total travelers.

"Our tracking of the top 50 cities shows that prices are up between 7 and 8 percent over last year, and last year was up a bit over the previous year," Seaney says.

If the price predictions lack holiday cheer, there are still ways to avoid the priciest tickets.

"Your best bet is fly either Tuesday, Thursday, the day of Thanksgiving and Saturday. Even if you do this on half your trip, you'll get half the benefit."

It is possible on many airlines to redeem accrued miles or points for holiday travel. In some cases, purchasing additional miles for redemption may actually be cheaper than paying a full fare.

Seaney also suggests taking a single bag for the family to avoid racking up checked baggage fees.

Several credit card companies have started offering a free checked bag in exchange for a higher annual membership fee. One family trip with luggage can easily offset the credit card fee. has a holiday breakdown of travel deals for WTOP.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)