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November 9, 2010

Americans are prepared to pay more for holiday travel

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Travel costs are on the upswing and that seems to be OK with almost a third of the people planning a trip during the holidays, according to recent survey results.

Of the 39% of U.S. consumers who said they will travel during the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s weekends this year, 30% expect to fork over more than they did last year, according to American Express.

That may be because of higher fares. Holiday airfares, especially for Thanksgiving, began creeping up in the first two weeks of October. And travelers certainly will pay more to fly because the number of ancillary fees has grown over the last year.

Zadar, Croatia

But it may also be true that consumers are willing to spend more because of pent-up demand.

“It’s a little bit of everything,” said Anne Banas, executive editor of SmarterTravel.com. “People who might have stayed home for the holidays in the past two years are saying, ‘I’m going to go now,’” she said.

On average, travelers said they expect to spend $460, which includes well-heeled consumers who are looking at costs of about $560 while young professionals are pegging $500, the American Express survey found.

Some fares up as much as 17%

The cheapest round-trip airfares to the top 50 cities in North America are up 17% year-over-year, according to FareCompare.com.

“Consumers should be buying now for Thanksgiving and have a few more weeks for Christmas and New Year’s,” said Rick Seaney, chief executive of FareCompare. And here’s some math to consider: “Consumers should add $5 to their

Kornati islands, Croatia

virtual airline ticket every day they wait.”

Fares, of course, don’t include surcharges, which carriers now attach to most anything outside of sitting in a seat: booking fees, checked-baggage fees, headphones fees, food fees; some airlines are even charging for carry-on bags.

Remember too that there are now fees of $10 to $30 for what the airlines consider peak travel days. At Thanksgiving, that’s not only the Wednesday before the holiday, but that Tuesday too. FareCompare.com has a chart detailing domestic air travel surcharges. See the chart on FareCompare.com.

As a rule of thumb, the highest fares are on the Sundays and Mondays after Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. If you want to avoid fees, fly on Thanksgiving or Christmas day itself.

Almost one in four of the consumers said they will spend more money by taking a longer trip while 20% said they’re planning on paying more on dining and an equal percentage said they would open their wallets up for more money on activities and entertainment.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Though airfares are tracking higher, the airlines will offer quick-hit sales on some routes. Typically those sales will be one-day only or with expiration dates in four to five days.

Air fares will rise again in 2011, according to a business travel forecast by American Express’s Expert Insights research group. Economy fares on domestic flights are projected to rise 2% to 6% next year while long-haul business fares could see price hikes of 3% to 7%, the group said recently.

Source: The WallStreet Journal


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