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SEATTLE, WA (August 20, 2008) – The Fareologists at Live Search Farecast today issued an early forecast for the 2008 holiday travel season, uncovering a grim outlook for consumers hoping to travel on

SEATTLE, WA (August 20, 2008) – The Fareologists at Live Search Farecast today issued an early forecast for the 2008 holiday travel season, uncovering a grim outlook for consumers hoping to travel on peak dates. Fares for Thanksgiving 2008 are up 35 percent from 2007, while Christmas and New Year’s fares are up 31 percent.

“This holiday season may well be the perfect storm for airfare that sends travelers running for cover,” said fareologist Joel Grus. “The combination of high fuel prices, airline capacity and route cuts means holiday travelers may easily spend upwards of $100 more per ticket than last year. There are deals out there for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, but they’re few and far between and won’t last long.”

Nationally, the average ticket cost for the most popular Thanksgiving itinerary – Wednesday departure, Sunday return – is $490, up $66 from last year. Travelers who have flexibility will be rewarded with big savings; returning on Monday or Tuesday can save more than $90 per ticket. The landscape for Christmas and New Year’s fares is similar with fares averaging $420.

“Don’t forget,” Grus added, “Many airlines are adding additional fees, such as baggage, on top of these fares, which can push the cost of travel higher.”

Grus offers the following tips for holiday travelers:

– Watch October for holiday price drops. During 2006 and 2007, most Christmas itineraries saw price drops in the first two weeks of October. Farecast data suggests there are 50 percent more price drops during the holidays than other times of the year, so alerts are critical to catch elusive deals.

– Travelers from big markets should wait. Travelers flying to and from major airports are much more likely to see price drops this fall and should closely monitor for lower fares before purchasing. Those flying in or out of smaller regional airports, which have been more affected by airline capacity cuts, should buy as soon as they find a fare with which they are comfortable – don’t expect major price drops this fall.

– Travelers will pay more this year. Unless a traveler finds the deal of the season, he will pay more for his holiday flights than in years past. Travelers should accept this and not hold out for a lower fare; it likely won’t come and the cost will just continue to rise.

“In 2007, travelers found the best holiday fares in the second week of October,” Grus said. “This year is a whole new game, so I recommend anyone who needs to fly on peak travel days to buy as soon as they find a reasonable fare. Those who do have flexibility in their travel dates, should monitor fares closely over the next few months and look for fare drops.”

Hotels Compensate for Higher Airfare

The fareologists also uncovered an interesting trend in hotels: some hotels at key vacation destinations are significantly lowering rates to counterbalance a rise in airfare. In many cases, overall trip costs including air and hotel have not increased above 2007 costs.

“The intense media attention to high airfares has everyone thinking that travel this year is vastly more expensive than ever before, and that’s just not the case,” Grus said. “For example, let’s look at an eight-day trip for two to Miami in September. Airfare has increased $109 since last year, but hotels are $173 less expensive, meaning the total trip cost is actually down $64.”

The trend holds true for many destinations in Hawaii and Florida. The trend is particularly interesting for Hawaii, which this year has seen some of the steepest fare increases of any destination. Nationally, hotel rates are about even with last year, but rates at leisure destinations such as Hawaii and Florida are down as much as 20 percent.

Farecast Airfare Predictions and Hotel Rate Keys

Live Search Farecast helps save online travel shoppers money with an airfare prediction for their specific trip. The airfare prediction shows whether the lowest fares appear to be rising or dropping and provides a recommendation to buy now or wait. In April 2006, Navigant Consulting, Inc. tested more than 44,000 airfare predictions and confirmed that Farecast’s predictions were 74.5 percent accurate.

Farecast’s Hotel Rate Key helps consumers know at a glance if the current rate for a hotel is a deal or not a deal. The initial beta version uses historical rates and offers Hotel Rate Keys for more than 5,000 hotels in 30 major cities across the country for up to 90 days in the future. Farecast builds the unbiased Hotel Rate Key on science, not marketing.