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Airfares for the holiday season are up about 17 percent from last year, and prices aren’t expected to drop anytime soon.

With Christmas less than 90 days away and Thanksgiving practically right around the corner, holiday fliers should be shopping right now and preparing to buy tickets in the next few weeks.  Airlines, including the low-cost ones, have raised their base fares.  Even the sales offered this fall for nonholiday travel were not as cheap as last year.

So what are you to do?  For one, check out airfares in the next few weeks, then plan on buying tickets for Thanksgiving by mid-October.  For Christmas travel, plan on buying no later than early November.  And of course, continue to track the price of your flight with Yapta – to ensure you get the lowest price.

Here’s some more news you can use:

  • United Airlines and Continental Airlines announced this morning that they have closed on their $3.2 billion merger of equals, creating the world’s largest carrier. The airlines will continue to operate as separate entities for at least a year until granted a single operating certificate by the Federal Aviation Administration.
  • If you’re willing to upload an “oops,” “yikes” or non-Kodak-moment family vacation shot or even give your opinion on other goofy families, you can get one-third off airfare to Orlando, Fla. , on Virgin America — and maybe even score some free tickets.
  • Hawaii’s hotel occupancy topped 74 percent last week, but room rates remained flat (averaging $167.60 a night) as visitors to Hawaii continue to be driven by bargains and discounts, according to a report compiled by Smith Travel Research and Hospitality Advisors.