Seven Secrets to Keep Holiday Travel Cheap

Sixth mistake: Not leaving Sparky at home. Clueless Traveler is one of those, "love me, love my dog" types, so Sparky had to go home for Thanksgiving, too. Only, at 90 pounds, Sparky was too big for the cabin so Clueless forked over big bucks for his cargo companion -- $250 each way.

Seventh mistake: Eating and drinking airline offerings. Never mind that Clueless was on an early flight, he simply has to have a cocktail each way, at $6 a pop; and he must have something off the "fresh food" menu, so there's another $9 each way. Next time, have the water, the coffee or the Coke on board because it's free. And pack your own sandwich.

How to Keep Holiday Travel Cheap

Let's tally up the damages:

Airfare: $563.20

Phone reservations: $25 (one-time charge)

Change fee: $150 (one-time charge)

Extra leg room: $39 each way

First checked bag: $20 plus $125 overweight fee = $145 each way

Second checked bag: $30 plus $175 oversize fee = $205 each way

Pet in cargo fee: $250 each way

Food and drink: $6 for alcoholic drink, $9 for food = $15 each way

Total cost of trip: $2,046.20

There may not be much hope for Clueless Traveler, but next time I hope he does a little prep work. Perhaps he can be more flexible on his dates, but if not, he should know exactly when he wants to fly, so he won't make expensive changes to his ticket later on.

If he must travel with a checked bag, just take one – and compare airfare with carriers that do not charge a bag fee. And leave Sparky at home.

Now for all of you Smart Travelers out there: the time to shop for your Turkey Day tickets is now, and absolutely purchase by the end of the month.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

Rick Seaney is one of the country's leading experts on airfare, giving interviews and analysis to news organizations, including ABC News, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, The Associated Press and Bloomberg. His Web site FareCompare.com offers consumers free, new-generation software, combined with expert insider tips to find the best airline ticket deal.

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