Yes, fares on many routes are more expensive this holiday season than last, but airfares are not static and there are (relative) deals to be had any time of year. Here is Airfarewatchdog.com's best advice for making your airfare dollars go further any time of year.
1. Sign up for the airlines' e-mail feeds and frequent flier programs. Airlines want to develop a one-on-one relationship with you, so they'll send you special deals, such as 50 percent off promo codes or two-fers, if you sign up. Airline sites sell much more than airfares these days (hotels, rental cars, credit cards and such), and they will entice you to deal direct rather than use a third party site such as Orbitz.
2. Sign up for third-party fare alerts. Yapta.com lets you track your specific itinerary, down to the flight number and dates of travel, and will let you know if the airline owes you a price-drop refund. Travelocity's easy-to-use FareWatcherPlus lets you track up to 10 routes and you can choose to be notified either when a fare goes down by $25 or more, or when it goes below a price you choose. Orbitz also offers alerts, as does Bing Travel, TripAdivsor.com/flights and FareCompare.com.
3. Search airline sites individually, but not exclusively. Many airlines have "private" sales, reserving their very best fares for their own sites. These are different from promo code fares. International airlines such as Aer Lingus, Iberia and Qantas regularly offer lower fares (i.e., $100-$400 less) on their own websites compared withwhat you'll find on Kayak or Orbitz.
4. Buy hotel plus air packages. It's often significantly cheaper to buy an air plus hotel package rather than airfare alone, especially for last-minute travel. We often see Travelocity "TotalTrip" offerings, especially on last-minute flights, pop up with hotel plus air for half the price of air alone. Lastminute.com is also a great source for finding last-minute packages.
5. Use Priceline for last-minute trips. If you don't have a seven-, 14-, or 21-day advance purchase window to buy your fare, your best bet is the "name your own price" feature of Priceline.com. True, you won't know the exact flight times or airline, but you can save 50 percent or more. Hotwire.com can also be useful for last minute trips.
6. Use consolidators, but beware of the restrictions. Consolidators specializing in premium cabins will have some great deals, and the airlines themselves will be heavily discounting their premium cabins. Sites like Vayama.com, airfare.com and Asia.com also sometimes sell consolidator fares.
7. Use a flexible date search. You could save hundreds of dollars. Google "airfarewatchdog flexible travel date chart" to see how different services compare.
8. Consider the extra fees before you buy. Make sure to compare fees for checked bags, for instance: Southwest has none, most other airlines do.
9. Combine two separate fares rather than buying one fare. If you're flying to a destination in Asia, for instance, fly into Singapore and catch a low-cost carrier such as Airasia.com from there. Even domestically, two fares may be less than one.
10. Buy tickets on an airline that will refund the difference if a fare goes down. Currently, the "nice" airlines are JetBlue, Southwest and Alaska.
11. Check fares several times a day, and don't listen to airfare pundits who predict airfares. Intermediate string overflow Fares fluctuate throughout the day, and the number of seats offered at the lowest fares also changes frequently. So if you don't like the fare at 10 a.m., check at 2 p.m. or the next day and you may be surprised.