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Friday, November 5, 2010; 10:35 AM

Pricey holiday travel, currency investigation

Traveling home: Prepare to pay up

Heading home for the holidays will come at a hefty price this year.

According to Priceline.com, airfare for Thanksgiving travel is averaging $383 nationally, making it the second-most expensive Thanksgiving for travel (2007 came in at No. 1 with a $385 average). And it only gets worse around Christmas. This year's average airfare is $444, compared with $452 in 2008 and $361 in 2003.

National average airfares for the 2010 holiday season were calculated using fares booked in October through Priceline.com.

So how can you shave a few dollars off your airfare to buy more gifts?

Fly on less popular days. The average fare on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, for instance, is $409. If you wait until the Monday before the holiday, t he average fare drops to $341. The average for a flight on the Saturday before Christmas is $523. On Christmas Eve, it drops to $436.

Even time of day matters. The most expensive fares are for flights in the peak travel hours of 8 to 10 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m.

Bottom line: Consider flying on these days: Nov. 22, 23, 25 and 30 and Dec. 20, 21, 24, 29, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

One more thing: To avoid baggage fees, have your gifts shipped in advance.

A currency conundrum

The Currency Commission's pitch sounded good enough: Give them your pre-euro currency, and they'd send back a check in good ol' U.S. dollars.

Unfortunately, sounding good does not always equal making good.

Reader Andrew Gilbride recently contacted CoGo to report that he never received a $45 check in exchange for the 110 German marks he sent the Currency Commission in February. The company's Web site promises that a check will be mailed within 24 to 48 hours, with delivery in seven to 14 days. CoGo decided to investigate.

A quick search of the Better Business Bureau Web site yielded the first bad sign. The Currency Commission gets an F rating, with only one complaint out of 16 resolved. The other 15 were never responded to, mirroring Gilbride's failed attempts to contact the company.

CoGo next took to the streets and paid a visit to the K Street location listed on the Currency Commission's Web site. Staff at the suite of shared offices said their contact with the Currency Commission consisted of forwarding mail to a European address. When it began to appear that the business was under some sort of investigation, the office managers terminated the relationship.

With a Web site still up and running - and promoting referrals from a wide variety of publications, including The Post via its weekly Post Points travel tips - the Currency Commission continues to give the impression that it is still in operation. The Washington and London phone numbers listed, however, appear not to be in service.

Comments on a few other online forums indicate that Gilbride isn't the only one the Currency Commission appears to have stiffed. After conducting its own investigation, CoGo can only advise readers to hold on to those francs and lire for now.

Travel ticker

JetBlue Airways has landed at Reagan National. The airline is now offering seven daily nonstop flights to Boston's Logan International Airport and one daily nonstop flight each to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Orlando International Airport. That will supplement the five daily flights to Boston from BWI Marshall and the six daily flights from Dulles. Terminal A has gotten a facelift thanks to JetBlue's arrival. The airline's ticket and gate counters are made of recycled products, and solar panels have been installed on the roof of the ticketing lobby. . . . Celebrate Veterans Day with a visit to a national park. The more than 100 national parks that charge entrance fees will waive them on Nov. 11. Several hundred other national parks never charge entrance fees. For a list of parks near you, go to www.nps.gov .

Reporting: Becky Krystal, Nancy Trejos. Help feed CoGo. Send travel news to: cogo@washpost.com . By mail: CoGo, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company


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