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Holiday travel: start planning now, and expect to pay more

Thanksgiving week bookings are 35 percent higher than the same time before the COVID pandemic. You can expect more of the same in December.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — If you're thinking about flying to see your family and friends during the holidays, experts say you better start planning now, and expect to pay more.

Thanksgiving week bookings are 35 percent higher than the same time before the COVID pandemic. You can expect more of the same in December, after many people skipped celebrating the holidays with family last year due to COVID.

Travel website Hopper says airline price hikes will be scary, if you're booking after Halloween: Up to 40 percent, with the average round trip ticket landing at $400. Wait until the last minute and you could pay another 25 percent on top of that.

Industry experts say travelers need to be flexible about their dates and destinations this year.

Also, book rental cars now, and be prepared for crowds.

There's also a real concern right now that there will be a shortage of airport screeners for Thanksgiving and beyond. 

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management says only about 60 percent of TSA employees are at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19.

Those other employees have until November 22 to get fully vaccinated and meet the deadline for federal employees. If they don't, they could face discipline, such as getting fired. 

Airlines are also grappling with workers getting vaccinated. Some are requiring workers provide proof they got the shots bright before the Thanksgiving holiday. 

So what should you do if you're worried about travel troubles?

Experts recommend trying to book flights on off peak days. Also, check to see how many flights the airline you're using has for your destination. That way you have more options if your flight gets canceled. 

In that same vein, try to get the earliest departure so you have some more wiggle room if something goes wrong.