Procrastinators may make it home for the holidays after all, and with cash in their pockets, thanks to holiday sales. We're seeing some great fares to most continental U.S. cities and to some cities in Canada.

Finding the cheapest seats will take a little knowledge about how these fares work. There are three levels, based on travel dates. You'll also have to consider distance, since fares are based on the number of miles you need to travel in 500-mile increments.

The following one-way fares (not including taxes and fees) are listed by cheapest days, then semi-peak and then peak.

For one-way travel up to 500 miles, fares are $99, $114 or $129; for 501 to 1,000 miles, fares are $124, $144 or $164; for 1,001 to 1,500 miles, fares are $139, $164 or $189; for $1,501 to 2,000 miles, fares are $159, $189 or $219; and for travel over 2,000 miles, fares are $179, $209 or $239.

Travel on these fares is available beginning Dec. 13 and ending Jan. 7. Generally speaking, the cheapest travel dates are Dec. 17 and 24; semi-peak dates are Dec. 13, 15, 16, 18, 25 or 31 and Jan. 3-7; and peak dates are Dec. 14, 19, 23 or 26-30 and Jan. 1 and 2. There are no special holiday fares for travel Dec. 20-22. Use these dates as a guideline, but check other dates. Cheap seats can sell out; dates can vary by airline. Advance-purchase savings vary.

Flights from Dallas to most cities range from $198 to $278 round trip for travel on the cheapest days and $258 to $378 on peak days. The dates can be mixed and matched if you can't fly both ways on the lowest priced dates. For example, if you can fly out on a cheap date and return on a peak date, the fare would be $228 for flights under 500 miles, vs. $258 for peak dates in both directions.

One of the great things about this sale is that since it is based on mileage, we are seeing discounted fares to smaller regional airports. These are airports that often have sky-high airfares because there is little competition. For example, round-trip flights from Dallas to Memphis are normally around $450, but during this sale, round-trip fares are $198 for travel on the cheap days and $258 for travel on the peak days. Travel to Burlington, Vt., is normally $606 round trip, but you can fly for $318 round trip on the cheap dates. Travel to Vancouver is normally $536 round trip, but fares start at $348 round trip with this sale.

This is one of the few sales we've seen that Southwest is not participating in (at least at press time). Southwest is still worth a look since they may offer cheaper fares depending on your itinerary.

And remember, we expect to see some fantastic fares after the holiday rush. If you don't have to travel during the holidays, you'll enjoy lower fares to most destinations and less-crowded skies.


Tom Parsons is publisher of Bestfares.com. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.