Prepare for a busy and expensive holiday travel season

▶ Watch Video: Holiday airfare is rising: What to know if you haven’t booked yet

Higher inflation, gas prices and hotel rates don’t seem to be deterring passengers. The number of travelers continues to climb, and at a time of year when traditionally the numbers are lower: the fourth quarter.

Airlines, in particular, are expecting big business. For example, Delta Airlines just posted a third-quarter profit of $695 million, and predicts a bigger-than-expected profit in the fourth quarter — with revenue that will top pre-pandemic levels. And United Airlines also reported a robust third quarter. 

That means planes are full and the airlines are making money again — and that’s before we get to Turkey Day.

Holiday airfares are reflecting that demand and more: Thanksgiving week air travel costs this year are averaging $468 this year, up nearly 50% from last year. And Christmas costs look even more expensive, averaging $574. Fares are going up about 4% a week until those holidays.

Thanksgiving is the busiest holiday travel season this year, and every year. And because Christmas this year falls on a Sunday, more people will be traveling and starting their holiday earlier, as far ahead as 10 days before Dec. 25.

Whether by car or by air, it’s going to be crowded, and it’s going to be expensive.

One strategy for relatively inexpensive holiday travel is to take your celebration aboard. More than 1,500 cruise ship itineraries right now have cabins that cost an average of less than $100 a day, and cruise lines are offering discounts like shipboard credits and free shore excursions as well.

If you have some holiday flexibility, one way to save money is to move your own personal turkey day back a week and start your celebration the following Wednesday. In the travel industry, that’s during what’s known as the dead week, one of two each year: the week following Thanksgiving and the one after New Year’s. Hardly anyone is traveling, so airfares and hotel rates plummet, highways are not congested and even the price of renting a car drops.

And if you don’t mind holding off on seeing family a bit longer, airfares are expected to drop dramatically in the first quarter of 2022 — with the exception of Presidents Day weekend — all the way until Memorial Day.

This content was republished with permission from CNN.

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