Traveling for the holidays? The time to book plane tickets, buy gifts is NOW!

The holiday season starts in less than a month and the high cost of inflation has a lot of us rethinking how we book travel and buy gifts.

Channel 2 consumer adviser Clark Howard says finding great deals is possible, but you’re going to need to put in a little extra work this year.

When it comes to holiday spending this year, nowhere will you feel the pinch quite as hard as when you’re booking travel.

“I just paid $1,100 for my husband and I to fly round-trip from Boston to Denver. It used to be like, $350,” traveler Betty Londergan said.

“I feel like here everything is more expensive,” traveler Lisa Andersch said.

According to the consumer price index, the cost of airfare is up a whopping 43% compared to this time last year. But Howard said there are ways you can save.

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“The best way to save is to be as flexible as you can be,” said Sarah Jordan, senior editor at Clarkdeals.com.

Jordan says while flexibility isn’t always easy around the holidays, buying one-way tickets lets you grab deals from multiple airlines.

“You can look on Google Flights and see which days have the very best price, which days of the week when you’re coming back has the very best price,” Jordan said.

And remember Southwest Airlines does not show up on Google Flights, so make sure to check that website separately. And if you can avoid checking a bag, do so.

“You avoid paying the fees and getting your luggage lost,” Jordan said.

So, if you’re not going to check a bag, how are you going to get your presents there? With free shipping options available from nearly every retailer, mail them.

Jordan said there are tons of ways to save this year, but first you have to set a budget and comparison shop.

“These stores want to pull you in, but just because the store is screaming 70% off doesn’t mean it’s the very best deal,” Jordan said.

She said the time to start shopping is now.

“We’re seeing Black Friday deals now,” Jordan said.

Howard said checking clearance sections is also key.

“Walmart, Target, Macy’s -- they’re all offering great deals right now. They all have a surplus of inventory,” Jordan said.

Some retailers offer incentives to shop with them. The Walmart+ program will give you early access to deals while Target’s Red Card offers cash discounts.

If getting an incentive means signing up for a credit or debit card, only spend what you know you can pay off right away.

As far as what we’re seeing the best deal on, it varies.

“Clothing for any season, summer, winter. We’re starting to see prices for TVs go down, laptops, Chromebooks especially,” Jordan said.

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