by Charisse Jones, USA TODAY
If you're still planning to fly home for Thanksgiving, prepare to pay more than you did last year.
Travel booking site Travelocity has reviewed fares for flights between Nov. 17 and 27 and found that the average domestic round trip will cost $386, including taxes.
That's nearly 9% more than the same period in 2011, and a fare increase similar to what travelers saw if they flew during the Fourth of July holiday this summer.
More passengers vying for fewer seats, along with the fluctuating price of fuel, are pushing up ticket prices. Airlines also tack on surcharges for peak travel times around the holidays that can range from $20 to $40 one way, says Courtney Scott, senior editor at Travelocity.
"The demand is so high for these flights ... you probably shouldn't be waiting until the last minute,'' says Scott, who warns that people who wait too long could be looking at round-trip fares as high as $600.
But if travelers book soon and are willing to tweak their itineraries - flying on the holiday itself or choosing a smaller, nearby airport - they may be able to conserve some cash, Scott says.
"Dinner doesn't happen until later on in the day, so if you can get an early-morning flight and leave on Thanksgiving, you'll save a lot of money,'' she says.
Returning the next day, or the Tuesday after the holiday, could also mean savings of up to $288, she says.
If you'd rather stay at a hotel than at Grandma's, you may also find a deal. Room rates in the U.S. have risen 2.4% for the November holiday period compared with last year, with an average rate of $141 a day, the travel site says.
Other tips? Use mobile apps or scan social media such as Twitter to find hotel bargains and flight deals, Scott says.
The higher fares probably won't deter most travelers who have the time off and are eager to see their families, says Jami Counter, senior director for TripAdvisor Flights. "People aren't quite as price-sensitive as they would be for the long weekend in the Caribbean,'' he says.
But sticker shock may make some people stay put.
"I can't see where people will get the extra money from to pay these higher fares, especially with the Christmas holidays right around the corner,'' says George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog.com. "I won't be flying to Grandma's house this year unless she's buying my ticket.''
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