Holiday travel will be more crowded and expensive in 2010....

Holiday travel will be more crowded and expensive in 2010. The best way to make the most of it is to strategize and book early, experts say. (2006) Credit: Bloomberg News

Some people find promotions for holiday gift shopping to be a little premature, coming as they do before Halloween. But this year they might remind prospective travelers that while it may not be time to shop, it certainly is time to book.

With airlines' limited-seating capacity and more people expected to travel this holiday season, Gabe Saglie, a senior editor at Travelzoo, which researches and publishes travel deals, says he's seeing airfares 10 percent to 20 percent higher than last year. His antidote: Book early and think strategically.

Destinations: For good lodging deals, check out what's available the week before Christmas in top convention cities like New York, Chicago, Orlando, Las Vegas and Dallas. That's when event planners are not booking conventions, meaning large blocks of rooms are open.

Also check Hawaii, where hotel occupancy rates have been low, as well as the Bahamas, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and the Gulf Coast, which is trying to overcome that oil spill image. On the Travelzoo site there's a week at an Irish villa, airfare and rental car included, as low as $500. (See vacations, Europe)

Flights: It may be tempting to hold out for a better fare, but if you see a reasonable price, book it, says Saglie. That savings of, say, $50 just may not materialize. And if fares to your destination seem high, see how much an upgrade is, as some airlines, such as SAS Airlines, have business-class fares as little as $100 more than economy.

Strategies: Can you possibly gather for Thanksgiving the weekend before or after the formal date, when fares are lower? How about flying the morning of the holiday, maybe the very first early-bird flight? Also check out flights into neighboring airports.

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