Hoping for a Christmas getaway? Make sure you book the best dates

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Anyone hoping for a bargain getaway this month should avoid the weekend of the 20th and 21st, with Which? revealing that prices can double on the weekend before Christmas.

In early December, the magazine looked at the cost of flights to four popular holiday destinations over the festive season, and found variations of hundreds of pounds.

%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%For example, the cheapest flight to Sydney Australia between 16 December and 2 January was just £559. On the Saturday before Christmas, though, this rocketed to £1,247.

For Orlando, Florida, the cheapest flight was £474 with Virgin Atlantic from London Gatwick - shooting up to £980 for the pre-Christmas weekend.

Canny travellers might believe they're getting a bargain by booking for Christmas Day itself. But Which found that this isn't always the case, with the cheapest flight that day from London to Edinburgh costing £173 - the most expensive flight of the period. In any case, many airlines don't fly on Christmas Day.

Better, say the researchers, is to wait a few days.

"Celebrating New Year's Day on a plane may seem like a miserable idea, but it could offer savings. EasyJet's Edinburgh flight on 1 January was the cheapest we found," they say. "And Virgin Atlantic's New Year's Day flight to Orlando was also one of the cheapest we found for the Christmas period."

If this isn't an option, the answer is to get away earlier, as Which? found that prices start to rise around Thursday 19 December.

As for when to book, comparison website Kayak recommends getting organised early. While the cheapest prices are usually to be had about three weeks in advance, this isn't the case at Christmas.

Instead, it says, the cheapest time to book is between September and mid-October - after that, prices rise by more than 50 percent. "Last year, there was no low period for international airfare for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year's Eve; instead, airfare steadily increased closer to departure," it says.

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