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Entertainment Year Ahead: The best time to buy airline tickets and other travel...

Year Ahead: The best time to buy airline tickets and other travel advice for 2017

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You don’t really need to make it an official resolution, do you? That in 2017 you will travel – a lot? But maybe you will resolve to be smarter about booking airfare and snagging those low prices. Here are some developments that could help make that promise stick.

More ‘bare-bones’ fares

Next year, George Hobica, founder of AirfareWatchdog.com, predicts that more airlines will start offering budget fares. United recently announced its new basic economy category, a rock-bottom fare that comes with some sacrifices. For example, you can only bring on board a personal item (no overhead bag), and you can’t choose your seat (the airline plays fairy godmother, or wicked witch, at check-in). Delta’s basic fare has similar restrictions on seat selection and also requires passengers to board in the last zone. “I expect American Airlines to follow suit on competing routes,” Hobica said.

Flights are cheaper overall

According to Expedia’s New Heights for Air Travel study, ticket prices are falling. “Average air ticket prices continue to drop around the world, making now a stellar time to fly,” said the study, which is based on 2016 data from Airlines Reporting and other partners. Economy-class prices have reached their lowest point in three years. In North America, ticket prices decreased by about 5 percent. For a $472 flight, that means you save $23 – the price of a solid lunch or several silly souvenirs.

Who should we thank for this most wonderful trend? Low-fare carriers such as Frontier and Spirit, which put pressure on the bigger birds to compete in the bottom bracket, as well as foreign airlines, which are expanding stateside. Hobica also expects prices will decline on highly competitive routes, such as New York to Los Angeles and Chicago to Atlanta.

The day you book matters

Fares are like frogs; they hop all over the place. But you can improve your chances of snagging a low fare by following a few guidelines, based on Expedia’s findings.

– Book on a Sunday, when fares can be 16 percent cheaper. (Conversely, don’t book on a Friday, even if the martini told you to.)

– Reserve more than 21 days in advance. Sample savings: Book early, and you could pay $1,462 for a European holiday; wait too long, and the price spikes to $2,226.

– Include a Saturday-night stay in your itinerary. (Exceptions to the rule: China and North Asia.)

– Travel during low season: Expedia says to visit Africa, North America and the Caribbean in January; the Middle East in February; and the Asia-Pacific region in June. The company’s data also discovered the best months to nab a low economy fare: January for trips to Southeast Asia, February for Australia and September for Europe.

The year 2017 isn’t just the Year of the Rooster. According to an Enterprise survey, it might also be the End of the Staycation. Your resolution just let out a cheer.


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