updated 11/10/2009 2:32:39 PM ET 2009-11-10T19:32:39

Book by: Select dates through December 31, 2009

Travel by: Select dates through January 3, 2010

The deal
With Thanksgiving less than a month away it's about time you start planning your holiday escape. Now is the prime time to snag last-minute deals on Thanksgiving vacations as well as discounts on December getaways. In fact, some statistics show that holiday travel costs are down an estimated 12 percent from this time last year. Our deal experts started shopping early and scored airfare sales, cruise deals, and hotel packages for Thanksgiving and Christmas, plus a bonus offer for next year's trip. So go ahead and treat yourself to an early holiday gift —prices start from only $98!

$98+: U.S. & International Thanksgiving fares (round-trip)
The deal: CheapoAir is serving up some tempting fares this Thanksgiving, priced from as little as $98 round-trip. Choose from more than 25 domestic city-pairs or take off to Europe, the Caribbean, and other far-flung locales from as little as $259 round-trip. To top it off, there’s a smorgasbord of discounted 3- and 4-star hotels in a number of the arrival cities starting from just $50/night. Use promo code “THANKS10” and you’ll save an additional $10 on your flight or hotel stay.

Sample round-trip fares: Phoenix–San Diego: $98; Seattle–Denver $139; New York–San Antonio: $188; and more

Book by: October 31

Travel by: November 24–December 2

The catch:
The lowest fares may be difficult to find, so you may need to be somewhat flexible with travel dates.

40 percent off: Houseboat rentals on Lake Mead & more U.S. Lakes
The deal: Spending time with the family this Thanksgiving doesn’t have to mean visiting your wacky aunt’s house again (even if she does make a mean homemade pumpkin pie). Instead, start a new holiday tradition on scenic Lake Mead, situated on the Arizonaand Nevada borders, (or choose to cruise other U.S. lakes like Lake Powell in Arizona, Trinity Lake in California, and Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri) with the Thanksgiving Bird and Boat Package from Forever Houseboats. This offer includes a 5-day houseboat rental (which sleeps up to 10 people) at the price of three — plus, a Thanksgiving turkey in the fridge once you board. Discounted rates are available at 11 marinas throughout the Southwest, but vary by location.

The value: The Lake Mead special is priced from $2,038 (normally $5,095) — that’s 40 percent off!

Book by: ASAP

Travel by: November 25–29  
   
The catch:  You may still have to invite that wacky aunt.                                                                                                          

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$570+: Scandinavia fares in economy extra (one-way)
The deal: Few places can capture that magical Christmas feeling like the snow-capped regions of Scandinavia. In addition to festive holiday traditions, this winter wonderland is perfect for activities like skiing, dog sledding, ice skating, and snowmobiling. Scandinavian Airlines invites travelers to fly in comfort for less with low fares in their Economy Extra class, offering extra legroom, adjustable neck and leg rests, and business-class check in. Fares are available from over 60 U.S. cities for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and start from a reasonable $570 one-way.   
                             
Sample one-way fares: New York–Copenhagen: $570; Chicago–Oslo:$570; DC–Helsinki: $570; and more

Top 10 tips for booking holiday flightsBook by: ASAP   
                                          
Travel by: November 21–27; December 19, 2009–January 01, 2010

The catch: A Saturday night minimum stay is required.

$129/Night+: Fantasy in lights package at luxury Georgia resort
The deal: Located in scenic Pine Mountain, Georgia, Callaway Gardens offers a quiet retreat, a relaxing spa, and, during the holiday season, its annual Fantasy in Lights display. Expect some 8 million glittering lights to illuminate the night sky, depicting the nativity scene, giant toy soldiers, Santa’s workshop, and more.

The value: Package rates start at $129/night and include admission to the gardens, VIP access to the Fantasy in Lights (normally $25 at the door door), a keepsake ornament, and breakfast for two.

Book by: ASAP

Travel by: December 30

The catch:
Room rates are based on the Inn at Callaway Gardens. Accommodations at the cottages, villas, or lodge are also available at an additional cost.

Up to 67 percent off: Thanksgiving Bahamas cruise on new ship
The deal: If Thanksgiving is scheduled at your house this year, ditch the dish-cleaning and leftovers in favor of this tempting option that will have you soaking up the sun in the Bahamasinstead. Try a 7-night cruise aboard the brand-new Carnival Dream (the “Fun Ship” cruise line’s largest ship) sailing from New York Cityon November 23. With rates starting as low as $649, that guilt about shaking off the in-laws is bound to disappear the moment you step on the ship. The Dream will call on Port Canaveral, Florida, and both Nassau and Freeport in the Bahamas, before making its way back to New York.

The value: Interior cabins on this cruise were originally priced from $1,939 — the $649 rate offers a total savings of nearly 67 percent!

Book by: ASAP

Travel by: Embarks November 23

The catch: Cabins are selling quickly, so book soon, before you miss boat.

Save $200: Travel for less with Expedia’s 2010 holiday kickback
The deal: If the above-mentioned specials aren’t your speed, book your holiday travel through Expedia and receive a post-holiday discount to any destination you choose. Purchase any flight or any flight-and-hotel combination for the holidays, and take an additional $200 off a booking for a 2010 vacation (with a duration of five nights or more).

Book by: In order to qualify for this Holiday Kickback offer, you’ll need to book this year’s holiday travel with Expedia by December 31, 2009 (for travel through January 3, 2010).

Travel by: The $200 discount can be used travel through April 30, 2010.

The catch: You need an Expedia account to receive your Holiday Kickback voucher — happily, it’s free and only takes a few moments to set up.

“ShermansTravel is a guide to top travel deals and destinations. Sign up for Sherman's Top 25 e-newsletter which features the best editor-screened deals from hundreds of travel providers and is delivered to over 4 million subscribers, free, each week. ShermansTravel also publishes trip ideas and travel features to inspire, guide, and go.”

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