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Where to Save Now
by Rudy Maxa for Marketplace

As we approach the holiday season - traditionally the busiest travel season of the year - the question of whether to travel is giving way to when. Should you book now or wait for better deals later? We asked our Savvy Traveler, Rudy Maxa.

Even in the best of times, that's a popular question. Here's what we know. Travel agents say bookings for the holidays are off 30 per cent. Americans are planning on either staying at home or driving, no matter how many times they hear that driving is statistically more dangerous than flying commercially. But if you absolutely do want to be somewhere for Thanksgiving or the December holidays that involves flying, I'd book now.

On Monday I priced a round trip flight on United between DC and Los Angeles leaving on Monday of Thanksgiving week, returning a week later. The fare: $403. Not too bad given that Thanksgiving week is the busiest travel time of the year, but not exactly a giveaway, either. Might you come across a cheaper, last-minute fare later? Sure, but if you book now, you should be able to get the flights that work best for you.

There's really good news if you want to travel around the holidays. Traditionally, the two cheapest travel times of the year are the first two weeks of December and the months of January and February. And for the last two years, major carriers have offered round-trip fares between London and New York as low as $200 at the start of the new year. Expect to see them again. In a bold move to build business Monday, KLM slashed all its advance-purchase, coach-class fares to Europe by 25 percent for travel from now through the end of March. Expect the competition to copy.

Or consider places closer to home where tourism is off. Hawaii, for example, or Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean. Check travel web sites or call individual hotels to see if you can cut a good deal - believe me, hotels are in a negotiating mood. Almost all of 2002, for example, the Hyatt Regency on Maui will give you a seventh night free and free breakfast. At the posh Lodge at Koele or Manele Bay Hotel on the Hawaiian island of Lanai, you'll pay $260 a night instead of 395 'til Christmas.

If skiing interests you, condo rentals in Colorado are marked down. Pine Ridge Rentals, near Breckenridge, Colorado, will rent you a condo in March that sleeps six for only $179 a night. Regular price: $300. A six-night stay at Lake Louise near Banff including lift tickets goes for an unbelievable $40 a night per person based on double occupancy.

Here are a couple of Caribbean deals if you tell them Rudy at the Savvy Traveler sent you. The Mount Nevis Hotel and Beach Club - a lovely, family-run inn on the West Indies island of Nevis - will match the number of nights you pay for...there's a three-night minimum, with the same number of nights free. Regular, nightly rates begin at $165 until mid-December. On the deserted Middle Caicos island in the Turks & Caicos - an hour's flight on American Airlines from Miami - rent your own cottage at the Blue Horizon Resort for seven nights and only pay for five. That's $900 for the week.

I'm Rudy Maxa for Marketplace.

You can read - and hear - more from Rudy and company at SavvyTraveler.org!

Ski accommodations:
- Pine Ridge Rentals: 800-333-8833
- Lake Louise: http://www.skilouise.com

- Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa: 800-55-HYATT or http://www.maui.hyatt.com
- Lodge at Koele or Manele Bay, Lanai: 800-321-4666; http://www.islandoflanai.com

- Mount Nevis Hotel, Mt. Nevis: http://www.mountnevishotel.com or 800-75-NEVIS; MUST MENTION THE SAVVY TRAVELER FOR DEAL
- Blue Horizon Resort, Turks & Caicos: http://www.bhresort.com or 649-946-6141; MUST MENTION THE SAVVY TRAVELER FOR DEAL-seven nights for the price of five ($900/wk.) January through March 2002.

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