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TRAVELOCITY NAMES TOP 10 HOLIDAY TRAVEL MISTAKES

Travel mistakes cost time and money: They start with shopping for a flight and continue right up to the day of departure. Travelocity’s Thanksgiving Task Force has monitored the nation’s busiest airports every Thanksgiving for more than a decade and found there are 10 travel mistakes that rear their ugly heads time and time again.

1. Waiting to purchase flights. This one’s a budget buster. Travel experts know the cost of airfare goes up, not down, the closer a holiday gets. More travelers means more people trying to get the cheap flights. Rule of thumb for holiday air travel: Don’t hold out for a last-minute deal. Book as soon as you know your plans for lower prices and more choices.

2. Not being flexible with travel dates. Airlines know some dates are more popular than others when it comes to holiday travel, so some may charge more for flights on those days. Good business for them, bad news for our wallets. Travelocity’s analysis of Thanksgiving airfare for 2011 found you can save an average of $200 by adjusting your travel dates. In general, dates to avoid this holiday season: Nov. 27 and 28, Dec. 22, 23 and 26 and Jan. 2.

3. Not researching alternate airports. Many major cities are serviced by several airports. For example, if you’re traveling to the New York City area this holiday season (a top destination) and LaGuardia Airport is most convenient to Grandma’s house, start your search there. But don’t forget to check the ‘search alternate airports’ box (found on Travelocity in the flight booking path) that will search fares to JFK, Newark, White Plains and others – flying to an airport that’s a little less convenient can mean big savings.

4. Not leaving enough time for connecting flights. If a connecting flight can be avoided – during the holidays and otherwise – it should. Every additional flight increases the chances of something going wrong. If a connection can’t be avoided, be sure to allow plenty of time to make your connection and build in extra time in case your first flight is delayed. With planes flying at near capacity over the holidays, it could be a very long time before the airline is able to find you an available seat on another flight and missing your flight could mean missing turkey dinner.

5. Over packing. Just don’t do it. Nearly every major airline charges $25 for the first checked bag and $35 for the second. If each member of a family of four checks two bags, that’s an additional $240 round-trip. Do your best to carry on only and save yourself money that could better be spent on gifts.

6. Putting important items in checked baggage. If you must check bags (see No. 5) be sure you don’t pack away items like medication, a cell phone charger and anything else you can’t live without. Once you check that bag you’re not going to see it again until you arrive at your destination, no matter how delayed your flight may be. On the off chance you do experience a major delay, you’ll want those important items close by.

7. Not checking in online before flight. Every major airline allows passengers to check in online up to 24 hours before the flight and print boarding passes, pre-pay for checked baggage (again, see No. 5) and more. This is a huge time saver at the airport and means skipping the check-in line and heading straight to security with boarding pass in hand.

8. Not leaving enough time to get through security. Airlines, airports and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will be staffed up to deal with holiday crowds, but expect security lines to be longer than usual. Leave one hour from the time you arrive at the security to get to your gate. Many airports have casual, expert and family traveler lanes; choose the one that best describes you so you and your fellow travelers have as easy a trip through security as possible.

9. Not knowing the latest TSA rules. Unless you’re 12 years old or younger, you still have to take off your shoes at security. Everyone must follow the 3-1-1 rule and take laptops out of their bags and put them through the metal detector in its own bin. Outerwear must be removed before walking though the metal detector. For more information, visit TSA.gov.

10. Not taking advantage of cheap hotels. Of course you love your family. You probably love your in-laws even more, right? But wouldn’t these holiday visits be even a little sweeter with a little more space? Consider checking into a nearby hotel instead of sleeping on the sofa – hotel deals (with the exception of properties in resort areas) are plentiful during the holiday season.

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From time to time, the Window Seat publishes articles and blog posts written by guest authors to give you a fresh perspective on the world of travel.

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