Airfare going up for the holidays

Holiday travelers collect their luggage at the San

Holiday travelers collect their luggage at the San Jose International Airport in San Jose, Calif. Flying over the holidays is going to cost more this year. And the longer you wait to book, the pricier it's likely to get. (Dec. 21, 2010 ) Photo Credit: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

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Flying over the holidays is going to cost more this year. And the longer you wait to book, the pricier it's likely to get.

The average domestic airfare for the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas is 4 percent higher than last year, according to Expedia.

But fliers can save money by manipulating travel websites, planning itineraries that are a little less convenient and taking advantage of airfare refund policies.

A simple but valuable strategy: If you find a good fare, jump on it. The price might drop later on, but not by much.

Here are five tips to help you save.

1. BE FLEXIBLE Adding a couple of days to your trip before or after peak travel days can lower fares. So can flying on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day or early in the morning of New Year's Day.

A flight from New York to Orlando, leaving the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and returning Sunday, cost $351 on a recent search. A budget-conscious traveler could leave on the morning of Thanksgiving, return the following Monday and cut the airfare to $271.

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2. LOOK FOR CONNECTING FLIGHTS Flying nonstop is ideal, but that convenience isn't free. Booking an itinerary that includes one stop could save you $100 round-trip. Just make sure to leave plenty of time to connect, in case your first flight is late.

3. FLY, THEN DRIVE Some airlines have a virtual monopoly at certain airports, allowing them to charge more. One of America's most expensive airports is Cincinnati, which is dominated by Delta. To save money, many fliers instead choose airports in Dayton, Ohio, Louisville, Ky., or Indianapolis. Most search sites can check fares at airports 50 to 100 miles from your destination. The savings are potentially big enough to make the car rental and extra travel time worthwhile.

4. PICK TWO DIFFERENT AIRLINES Most airlines sell one-way flights at reasonable prices. One airline might be cheaper for the outbound flight and another for the return. You could even arrive at one airport and depart from another.

5. CONSIDER THE 24-HOUR RULE Most big airlines, including US Airways, Continental, Delta, Southwest and United, allow passengers to cancel and rebook tickets purchased on their websites within 24 hours without penalty. After you book, check the next morning to see if the price fell.

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