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Nov 19, 2012 8:00 PM by Danielle Lerner

Flying for the holidays? Check out these money-saving tips before you book

TUCSON- If your holiday travel plans include flying experts say the sooner you book, the better. The number of tickets sold for Christmas and New Year's is already up more than 50 percent from last year, which means fewer flights and higher prices.

Thanksgiving is still a few days away but frequent fliers at TIA are already thinking ahead.

"Usually we stay home at Christmas but this year we're going to be going to Denver," said Joanne Amoroso, who lives in Green Valley.

Experts predict an extra 150,000 passengers will fly this holiday season compared to last.

"With our 52 flights a day, all of them are flying full, that tells you what the traffic patterns are going to look like," said Mary Davis, senior director of business development and marketing at TIA.

That means finding an affordable fare can take some leg work.

First, expand your search outside standard travel sites. Follow airports and airlines on Twitter and Facebook to get a jump on special fares. Sign up for alerts from sites like Airfare Watchdog for discounts tailored to your plans. Also when it comes to booking, experts say the most seats are available Tuesday at 3 p.m. eastern time, so fares tend to be cheaper. They also recommend being flexible because flying Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday or on the actual holiday can slash prices too.

News 4 Tucson's Danielle Lerner put some of these tips to the test. She researched fares for one of TIA's most popular routes, to Chicago-Midway, using one of its cheapest carriers, Southwest Airlines.

The results were encouraging. A roundtrip flight leaving Friday, December 21, and returning the 26 runs $935. Leave Saturday the 22 instead and the price drops to $828. If you are willing to come back Christmas Day too, the fare plummets to $528. Still, keep in mind the results will vary based on your itinerary.

"It's going to matter to the individual," Davis said. "Where they need to go, what time of the year they need to go, how quickly they need to get there."

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