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Holiday travel booking is off to a busy start

| Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, 2:33 p.m.

If you are already thinking about or booking holiday travel, you are not alone.

According to a recent Bankrate survey, 8 million Americans have already planned and made holiday reservations.

For those who haven't booked, September looks to be a busy month of planning. Of the approximately 35 million Americans that anticipate staying in a hotel over the holidays, 23 percent have already booked and many expect to finalize bookings by the end of the month.

The same can be said for the 31 million travelers who plan to fly.

If it seems like flights are selling out quickly, that's because 20 percent have already arranged and paid for airfare and 48 percent of those who haven't made arrangements are planning to purchase tickets in September.

A minority of holiday travelers are waiting until the last minute, but there are some holdouts. According to Bankrate, one in seven, including twice as many women as men, won't finalize their plans until December.

But does early-booking mean missing out on deals?

According to airfare tracking service Hopper, the best deals are actually in October for Christmas tickets and Thanksgiving prices are stable through Halloween.

If you haven't booked a flight yet, holding out on airfare ­— at least for a little while — could benefit you financially.

Another way to save on holiday travel is to reap the rewards of credit card points.

For those who hit the road infrequently but pay by credit card often, you might be surprised to learn that you have unredeemed travel rewards points or perks that will make holiday travel easier and more affordable.

It is a good idea to do a cursory check-in with your card benefits before you book and see if you can pay with points for hotels, car rentals or airfare and also to see if you have additional perks such as TSA Pre-Check or included travel insurance.

Bankrate notes that one of the fastest and most lucrative ways to get points is to apply for a card and take advantage of the sign-up bonus.

“This is basically free money,” Bankrate.com analyst Robin Saks Frankel said.

“The best current offers are worth up to $1,000 in free travel just for signing up for the card,” Saks Frankel added.

Looking for the perfect card? Bankrate has a good list.

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