There’s no place like home on vacation.
We heard the Carpenters and Perry Como sing it. We saw it in airport security lines in the days leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The two public holidays are among the busiest travel times of the year. Last year, the Transportation Security Administration screened more than 20.2 million people during the holiday season. Travel agency Hopper estimates that this year will be the most expensive in five years for domestic and international travel.
Here are some tips that might help you get a better deal on your next trip:
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What are the cheapest days to fly?
Mid-week flights are the cheapest. According to Hopper economist Hayley Berg, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the cheapest days to travel abroad, while Wednesdays tend to be the cheapest for domestic travel.
“The days when other people are less likely to want to travel will always be the cheapest days,” says Berg.
As holiday travel looms, travelers with flexible schedules may look to abnormal travel days to knock off a few bucks.
According to Berg, the cheapest days for Thanksgiving travel this year will be Nov. 21, the Monday before the holiday, or Nov. 24, Thanksgiving Day. This is because most people will be traveling the weekend before Thanksgiving or the day before, November 23. Picking the less busy days could yield about $90 in ticket price savings, she says.
The same can be said for return flights – most customers are likely to travel the weekend after Thanksgiving, making Tuesday November 29 and Wednesday November 30 the cheapest days to choose.
When it comes to Christmas, Berg predicts that the Monday and Tuesday before the holidays, December 19 and 20, will be the cheapest. If you plan to travel a bit later in the week, you’ll have better luck on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
“You can save about $120 if you can fly 19 and 20,” says Berg.
Returning anytime in the middle of the week after Christmas will yield the cheapest tickets, Berg says.
When to book a vacation trip
We’re in a “sweet spot” when it comes to booking vacation travel, according to Berg. Airfares for both vacations are relatively low compared to what they will be in the coming weeks. According to Hopper’s analysis of flying habits in 2022, most travelers will pay about $350 for a “cheap domestic flight on Thanksgiving,” about 43% more than last year.
While the common perception is that the sooner the better, says Berg, that’s not always the case with travel.
“People who are currently searching are pretty flexible: they can book, they can’t,” says Berg. “Airlines are lowering prices right now to get travelers to start booking, and then we will see this surge of people in the next few days and weeks who are researching, booking and locking down their holiday trips. This will drive prices up. »
If this time of year seems late to book vacation travel, we may be to blame for the COVID-19 pandemic. With the uncertainty of social gatherings and travel plans, the window before booking flights is smaller than it was before the pandemic. This year people are booking about a week later than normal and people were only booking flights about 10 days during the peak of the pandemic, Berg says.
“Most people haven’t booked their vacation trip,” Berg says. “People plan their trips a little too last minute to see some of the lowest prices.”
Hopper’s vacation outlook analysis this year recommended booking by the second week of October for the lowest prices. Mid-September to mid-October is the best time to book a vacation trip.
“If you see a price you’re comfortable paying, you should definitely book it because prices will only go up,” says Berg. “It’s for both holidays – a lot of people book their trip for Thanksgiving, they forget about Christmas for a few weeks, and then they see sky-high prices.”
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What day of the week is best to book flights?
Is it really cheaper to book flights on Tuesdays? We’ve all heard the theories: the best time to book your flight is in the middle of the night, or on a Tuesday, or using a brand new computer or on a private browser. The dance of purchasing flights is not as complex as rumors suggest.
The myth comes from the early days of flight revenue management when airlines manually displayed flight fares each week.
“The team would come in on Mondays, they would see how the sales were going over the weekend, and if they weren’t doing well, they would lower the price,” says Berg. “Sometimes it takes 12 hours for fares to become available, so on Tuesdays all fares would be lower. This used to be true, but this is no longer the way airlines manage their inventory and prices. »
That being said, a recent report by Expedia estimated that travelers who buy their tickets on Sunday save 5% on domestic flights and up to 15% on international flights compared to regular Friday prices.
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How far in advance should I book my flight?
The holiday travel model also applies when booking holidays: buying flights eight months in advance can actually cost you more.
“They’re probably planning an inflexible vacation (which) they’re counting on, so they’re probably also willing to pay a lot more for that flight to know it’s booked and they have a seat,” Berg says.
Some of the best times of year to travel are what Berg calls the “fall shoulder season” in September and October. By booking flights in late August or early September, you’ll get the cheapest shoulder season deals.
But January is taking over as the cheapest month to book flights and travel. Trips in January, February and even early March booked in the first month of the year will give you the cheapest results as you beat the spring break crowds.
When it comes to booking your hotel stay, Berg says you want to wait until the last minute. While flights know travelers are scrambling to make sure they have a seat at their specific destination, hotels are competing with dozens of residences in an area.
“A lot of them are going to have empty rooms, so at the last minute the hotels actually lowered their prices,” says Berg. “If you’re flexible enough to wait until you get to your destination or drive into town to book your hotel, you can typically save an average of 25% off the price you would have paid had you planned it a month or so. be six weeks in advance.”
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