Travel agents get this question constantly. Whether it’s a flight, hotel, or cruise, people want to know! I can’t say I blame them, I know exactly how much research and planning goes into a vacation and we all want good value for our money. The honest answer will always be, it depends. There are so many factors that go into these different rates: time of year, availability, holidays, etc.
However keeping in mind that in general there are some better times than others to book different pieces of travel. The main peak season for travel for Americans would be summer. The weather is nice, kids are out of school, and prices can be steep. Conversely the slow season would then be winter, with better prices.
If you are looking into a cruise, the mentioned slow season really applies. Winter, especially July- November, is hurricane season in the Caribbean. This could mean rougher water and rain during your voyage. But this is typically the best time to book a Carribbean cruise for lower prices. And according to wanderingearl.com’s “Travel Tips: How to Find Cheap Cruise Fares” booking at the last minute is the most expensive time while 90-120 days prior to the sail date is best, after that you must keep an eye out for any lower fares/special promotions since all major cruiselines will have a price guarantee. This means if the price does go down, you get it!
Hotel rooms can be tricky too. Keeping in mind our peak and slow times, hotels can be further split into business and leisure. Business hotels cater to those professionals that travel for work, mainly throughout the weekdays. This means that the hotel prices will probably be higher through the week and lower on the weekend. The hotel might also focus on different amenities such as free Wi-Fi, a fitness center, and an airport shuttle over more leisurely amenities. The opposite would be true for a leisure hotel. Their prices would be higher on the weekends and lower through the week with things like a pool and themepark shuttles/discounts as amenities.
With these important differences in mind, a good average according to “How to Find the Best Hotel Deals in 2016” by mylittlenomads.com would be to book 2-6 months in advance for a leisure hotel and 1-2 weeks in advance for a business hotel, with holiday and peak exceptions.
This is probably the biggest purchase of almost any trip! It is also one of the most important. When to depart/arrive, non-stop or connecting, which airline, all of which play into the price. There are many things that can be done to save money while flying: going through a discount airline like JetBlue or Spirit, being flexible with your dates (you’d be surprised how often leaving a few days earlier or later can save hundreds), choosing a connecting flight over a non-stop. But with these money saving options in mind, sometimes we still see the value in spending a bit more on flights. I know I would spend extra for a non-stop! One of THE best ways to see prices for flights and to track prices is with Google flights. It doesn’t show many airlines like Southwest or Spirit so you do have to check their sites individually.
We all know that there are domestic flights and international flights. But there can be some major differences in these when booking. Not just in prices, but in regulations too, especially for luggage! The same is true for the best time to book. Domestic flights are a little easier to come by than international ones, with more airlines and airports. This means that you don’t necessarily have to book as far in advance (with the exception of holidays and peak seasons). Huffington Post’s article “The Best Time to Book a Plane Ticket, According to a New Study” breaks it down quite nicely. The average is 30-90 days with the study narrowing it down to precisely 54 days prior.
After a very long connecting flight to Ireland!
As I have mentioned international flights can be very tricky. Only large, international airports like Atlanta or New York will offer international flights. This means, if you are like me, that you will have to fly to one if these places first, adding to the cost. Farecompare.com’s post “Cheapest Days to Fly and Best Time to Buy Airline Tickets” cover pretty much what all travel agents should know. Flying during lunch and dinner times, as well as red-eye or overnight flights will offer the best bang for your buck. The site also claims that Tuesday at 3 pm is the best day of the week and time for domestic or international flight purchases, with Friday and Saturday being the most expensive. The site also recommends booking international travel 45 days to 5.5 months in advance, adding 2+ months for peak/holidays. In my own experience and my usual recommendation for purchasing international flights would be 4-6 weeks in advance.
I hope this gives a little more insight into the travel world and sheds some light. This is by no means comprehensive or set in stone, merely a sampling. Every trip, no matter how routine is unique and should be treated as such. If you have more specific questions, as always I will do my best to answer them. Feel free to leave a comment either here or on my Facebook page. Until next time my fellow adventurers, (safe travels!) يسافر آمنة!