RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- As the holiday season approaches, travel experts say to expect full planes and a lot of competition as leisure travel continues to rebound.
"Travel is certainly here to stay," flight expert Gilbert Ott said.
Holiday travel chaos is on the minds of passengers like Pamela Higdon, who passed through the Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Wednesday.
"I always just had to plan ahead, allow extra time, make sure that we had all of our documents and that we were as prepared as we could be," Higdon said.
Passport delays are still long for millions of Americans with some facing a wait of up to 11 weeks, according to the State Department.
"A lot of people needed to renew their passports. There weren't enough staff to handle all the applications," Clint Henderson, managing news editor at The Points Guy, said. "The good news is processing times have come down slightly, and I think that's only going to improve the rest of the year."
The key to holiday travel this year is to book early if you haven't already, according to Ott.
"Thirty to sixty days for domestic travel tends to be a sweet spot," Ott said. "You want to start earlier, and last minute also can be a decent opportunity if you haven't found anything that works."
Ott said another way to save is setting price alerts early.
"They're free to set," Ott said. "You can track as many routes as you want. You should set it for direct flights you should set it for indirect flights, you should set it for nearby cities that you'd consider."
More money-saving hacks include using credit-card points instead of cash and looking at first-class fares domestically as Ott said the holidays are when business travel is down.
"Sometimes first-class fares domestically are nearly the same price as economy, but they come with the checked bags, the priority security, and you can actually end up saving money or kind of breaking even by going for the higher fare," Ott said. "They're less volatile because there's a little bit of a dip in demand for those seats up front while everybody is trying to grab a seat in the back to get home for the holidays."