Book your July 4 flights now if you haven't already, travel expert warns: ‘You don't want to wait any longer'

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If you've been waiting until the last minute in hopes of snagging a July 4 travel deal, it's time to take the plunge.

Prices are unlikely to get any better as Independence Day approaches. Katy Nastro, a travel expert at Going, tells CNBC Make It that holding out for a super-cheap flight is a strategy that is likely to backfire.

"You don't want to wait any longer hoping and praying that some magic cheap flight is going to drop in price by 50%," she says. "It's more likely the case that the flight actually goes up by 50%."

That's because we are in the midst of a record-breaking travel season. The TSA reported this week that Sunday, June 23 was its busiest travel day ever. The agency anticipates that it will screen more than 32 million domestic travelers between June 27 and July 8.

Airlines, Nastro explains, have no incentive to reduce their prices ahead of a busy travel day. Indeed, the opposite is often the case.

"They can capitalize on the fact that you need a ticket, especially if it's over a very busy period like the July 4 holiday, which is looking to be one of the busiest holidays on record," she says.

Instead, now is the time to be forward-thinking about your travel plans.

"You're more likely to find a better price on winter holiday flights than you are for the July 4 holiday," she says. "We're in this time period called the Goldilocks window where you should be considering looking and booking for the winter."

But if you need to book a last minute flight, there are a few things to keep in mind.

1. There's no 'right' place to search for flights

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Contrary to popular belief, there's no website that will give lower prices than anywhere else.

"Whether it's Google Flights, Skyscanner, going to the airline website directly, it doesn't matter," Nastro says. "That's a total personal preference."

Nastro prefers using Google Flights because of the way it allows her to adjust the search criteria to suit her needs, but she recommends travelers use whichever service they feel the most comfortable with. 

2. One-way flights are your friend

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If you're in a pinch and looking to not break the bank, one strategy Nastro recommends is searching for one-way flights rather than exclusively looking for a round trip deal. 

While it may be tempting to book a round-trip flight through your preferred airline, this strategy may result in you paying more.

"If you're tied to one airline, that sort of silos you and doesn't provide you the flexibility to look at all of your options," Nastro says.

Searching for one-way flights and being open to different airlines may not be ideal for your miles program status, but your wallet will thank you.

"You need to prioritize cheap flights, not status," she says.

3. Try to avoid checking a bag

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"It's not always the case that you're able to do so, but if you can, avoid checking a bag at all costs," Nastro says. "Not only are you going to be saving money by not paying for those pesky bag fees, you're also avoiding another long line that you have to wait in." 

During record-breaking travel days, security won't be the only part of the airport with long lines. Nastro recommends traveling with just a carry-on bag so that you can avoid having to wait to check your bag.

This strategy will also protect you from any potential headaches caused by issues with your trip.

"Your bag gets checked to your final destination, so if something happens when your connecting flight or next part of your itinerary gets cancelled or significantly delayed, your bag is on its way to that final destination regardless," she says. "It's an added layer of stress you just don't want to deal with."

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