Avoiding stressful surprises during holiday travel

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– One of the most stressful things about the holidays can simply be getting where you’re going. New airline fees and policies this year could hit travelers hard in their wallets if they’re not prepared.

Many airlines have upped the cost of changing your travel plans.

“Just a couple of months ago, the big four airlines: U.S. Airways, United, American and Delta increased that change fee from $150 to $200 per ticket, that’s even if you got a one way ticket,” said Gabe Siglie with Travelzoo.

A projection from AAA predicts fewer Americans will fly for Thanksgiving, with air travel down about 3.7 percent compared to 2012. Thanksgiving travel dates are considered November 27th through December 1st this year.

The slightly lower demand isn’t lowering prices. Airfares are up between five and ten percent compared to 2012. Siglie said the trend of charging customers for things that used to be free will likely continue.

“That overhead bin space has now become prime real estate on a lot of airlines. In particular, Legion, Spirit and Frontier are now charging anywhere from about $35 to $100 depending on the airline, to be able to use that overhead bin space,” he said.

That may be enough to prompt many passengers to travel light, but American Airlines is going as far as to give passengers with smaller carry-ons the chance to board the flight first.

Airline frequent flyer programs can also be a good idea for people who travel throughout the year. Members often don’t have to pay to check bags or other fees.

The 24 hours after booking a flight are usually fee free if you need to cancel or change your plans, said Siglie. Weather concerns can be the exception to fees closer to departure.  Airlines may wave the cost of changing your flight if there’s impending severe weather like a blizzard or ice storm.

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