In most parts of the country, it’s peak beach season. But the travel industry is already hearing holiday jingle bells.
“As a general rule, we always suggest booking travel at least six months in advance to avoid any disappointments due to lack of space or high prices,” says Mary Jean Tully, CEO of Tully Luxury Travel, an agency based in Toronto. “For travel during the holiday season, we suggest booking even farther in advance — 10 months or more — especially if you’re considering popular destinations such as the Caribbean or if traveling with a larger group, like an extended family.”
In the pre-pandemic past, spontaneous travelers could wait until close to departure and bank on last-minute sales. But that’s probably not the case this year. “No longer can you wait for the last minute and expect there to be bargains during festive season,” says Susan Zurbin-Hothersall, a Travel Edge adviser based in New York City. “The lower-priced hotel rooms usually sell out first.”
Here’s more about what you need to know about planning travel over Thanksgiving and December’s holidays.
1. Start tracking flight prices
According to the travel booking app Hopper, airfare for Christmas travel this year is similar to fares at this time last year, which is more than 20 percent above pre-pandemic prices. The good news: Fares are likely to come down in the fall. The key is to be on top of tickets before they bottom out. Hopper and search engines such as Kayak and Expedia offer a feature that tracks flight prices — just input your itinerary and you will be alerted about price fluctuations with advice to buy or to wait.
“The human side of this is that it takes time to make holiday plans,” says Hayley Berg, lead economist at Hopper. “If you start the planning process now, it gives you a little time to figure out where you’re going and to monitor prices.”
Being flexible about your destination can also lead to a good deal around the holidays. Berg says if you’re looking for a warm-weather destination such as Cancun, Punta Cana or Los Cabos, put a notification on each one and book right away when there’s a lower price. “If you can follow the deal instead of the destination, you can typically save a tremendous amount,” she says.
It’s also a good idea to look at regional airports when flying. “Regional airports are prime for low-cost carriers as they can afford the rent to enter the market from an adjacent city,” Berg says.
The ticket sales site CheapAir.com is forecasting a 12 percent increase in Thanksgiving season airfares over 2022 and an 11 percent rise over Christmas compared to last year. Surprisingly, the day before Thanksgiving, historically one of the most expensive days to travel, is looking more affordable.
“One reason for this change is that more travelers now work in a hybrid or flex environment, decreasing the demand for travel closer to the holiday,” says Jeff Klee, the CEO of CheapAir.com.