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Travel tips for the holidays

With Halloween already behind us, Thanksgiving is not far behind and with it comes the launch of the holiday travel season.

Anyone planning to travel over the holidays this year is well-advised to make their reservations now for the best prices and availability.

Working with a professional travel agent and using handy advice from the American Society of Travel Agents can provide the greatest return on your holiday travel experience.

"Planning a trip these days can be pretty stressful, especially for complicated holiday vacation travel," said American Society of Travel Agents CEO Tony Gonchar. "Working with a professional travel advisor is one of the smartest decisions you can make. Thanks to their expertise, experience and industry connections, they can likely save you money, save you time and ensure you get a vacation experience that is just right for your needs."

The American Society of Travel Agents offers the following tips for air travel this season:

Book your ticket ASAP

Booking early is sound advice, especially around the holiday season, as you will find better rates and greater availability.

If you must book last minute, remember, you have options.

The key to securing the best deal is flexibility in travel dates-ask your travel agent to check into holiday fares; the slow week between Christmas and New Year's; or consider flying into an alternate airport and renting a car.

If your holiday vacation includes international travel, make sure you have a valid passport. Some countries require your passport to be valid for at least six months beyond the date of your trip.

Your travel agent can advise you on the rules and how to apply.

Arrive early

Difficult airport parking, long lines at security checkpoints and the possibility of the airline overselling the flight and bumping passengers should all be considered when deciding what time to arrive at the airport. Give yourself plenty of extra time.

Avoid getting bumped

1) Get an advance seat assignment. Passengers with seat assignments are typically only bumped if they arrive late and their seat assignment is released.

2) Check-in online. Most airlines allow you to do so within 24 hours of departure. Seat assignments that were not available at the time of ticketing may be available when checking in online.

3) Don't be late. If all else fails, get to the airport early. Some airlines reserve a portion of their seat assignment inventory for airport check-in. If you are denied a seat assignment at check-in, put your name on the "standby" seat assignment list.

Remember 3-1-1

Transportation Security Administration regulations limit the amount of gels and liquids passengers can take through security in their carry-on luggage to travel-size toiletries of three (3) ounces or less that fit comfortably in one (1) quart-size, clear plastic zip-top bag and the one (1) bag per passenger must be placed in the screening bin.

Know your limits

Pack light and know baggage limits. Most airlines now allow only one carry-on and charge for first and second checked bags.

Ship your gifts to your destination ahead of time. If you choose to travel with your gifts, leave them unwrapped. With safety a priority for all airlines, security personnel will need access to all items. Pack collapsible gift bags to be used as wrapping upon arrival.

Tips for travel by car include:

Plan itineraries and accommodations in advance

Reservations for hotels, restaurants and rental cars get booked quickly during peak travel times. Your travel agent can help you get the lowest rate and make sure your rental car has room for your family, luggage and whatever souvenirs you bring home.

Get a tune up

Before any long-distance drive, make sure to have your oil changed and your brakes, fluids and tire pressure checked. The slightest deficiency in air pressure significantly reduces your car's gas mileage. On the flip side, too much air can result in a flat.

Get an early start to avoid holiday gridlock

Traveling during late night/early morning hours helps. The worst times to travel are after meals since most travelers postpone leaving until they've eaten with their families. Make sure that all drivers are thoroughly rested.

To locate a travel agent near you or one who specializes in a particular type of travel, visit the "Find a Travel Agent" directory at TravelSense.org.

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