Book now if you plan to fly over the holidays

Book now if you plan to fly over the holidays »Play Video
Holiday travelers wait in a long line at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport on Sunday.
The big push is on to book your flights soon if you're planning to fly anywhere around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

No one's willing to predict how high some fares will go, but for some destinations, prices are already starting to climb.

Local travel agents tell me they started booking flights for the most popular holiday destinations way back in April, and many the best deals are already gone.

And if you have a college student coming home for the holidays, count on paying more the longer you put off booking that flight.

Even without the holidays, many airline passengers are finding flights overbooked. Between mergers and cutbacks, many routes have fewer seats.

And while some travelers may find great deals by waiting for last-minute discounts, travel experts say if you have set travel dates in November and December, don't wait.

In fact, some fares are already inching upward.

On Sept. 29, the best mid-week fare between Seattle and Miami was just over $309 on American Airlines for travel in 30 days. American still had the best fare to Miami at noontime Oct. 4.

But check out Seattle to Maui. Delta had the best mid-week rate on Sept. 29 at $354.70 round-trip for travel in late October. Five days later, the best Delta rate for Maui is $20 higher through a limited Web special.

Finally, for a flight from Seattle to Phoenix, best mid-week fare on Sept. 29 was $239.40 on Alaska. By Oct. 4, the lowest fare has jumped by more than $22.

Bottom line: the most popular holiday destinations and dates are filling up quickly. As the demand for seats builds, there's nothing to indicate air fares will do anything but rise.

To get the best rates, be flexible about the dates. Choose the least popular departure times, like 5 a.m.

And check multiple airports near your destination. In some cases, you can save $50 more by picking an airport an hour or two away. A lot depends on where you're going.

But if you have set travel dates, experts say the sooner you book, the better. One woman who delayed booking a flight for her college daughter in Texas just learned she'll have to pay $800 to get her daughter home for Thanksgiving.