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What Every Holiday Traveler Must Know

The holiday travel frenzy begins in earnest this week, and even though AAA predicts that fewer Americans will travel due to higher fares and tighter budgets, there are still expected to be over 4 million people taking to the skies in the coming days.

In tough times, there’s no place like home for the holidays. But in order to get there, you need to be prepared for all those ‘what if’s’ on the way – from bumps to cancellations and other airline follies.

New York Times Travel Columnist Michelle Higginssaid that the first thing every traveler needs to do is “know your rights when it comes to flights.” The Department of Transportation has a ‘fly rights’ guide at airconsumer.ost.dot.gov, which tells you what you are entitled to if your flight is cancelled or if you get bumped.

You should also sign up for flight alerts, Higgins said. Most airlines have an option on their web sites where you can sign up for emails or text messages that tell you if your flight is delayed, the gate is changed, or any other hiccups occur. Flightstats.com also lets you do this.

Always have a back-up plan, Higgins said. If your crowded Thanksgiving flight is cancelled, you don’t have to freak out with the masses in front of the ticket counter, trying to figure out what to do. Having backup flights already planned in case something goes wrong can make a big difference.

Finally, check in early. The last people to check into a flight are often the first to be bumped if the flight is oversold, which is especially common during the holidays. Many flights now allow you to check in online up to 24 hours in advance, Higgins said.