Your family is likely starting to shape your holiday travel plans, so you know which days to be off work. Normally, you might have booked your holiday flights and lodging in the summer months. But you might be able to wait a little longer this year to set your travel itinerary for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Book Flights One Month In Advance
You can normally find cheap flights up to one month before your travel dates. Prices should be the same if you’re proactive and book closer to 60 days from the holiday. Current prices for holiday flights are already below their normal prices, so we may not see prices go lower from here.
For Thanksgiving flights, you should book your flight by late October. The busiest travel days are typically the Wednesday before Thanksgiving Day and the Sunday after, as people often return home that day. Thanksgiving Day this year is on November 26, 2020.
For Christmas and New Year’s Eve, you should still be able to find cheap flights through Thanksgiving weekend. You might keep an eye on any Black Friday or Cyber Monday specials that airlines and hotels may offer.
Not waiting until the last minute to book also means that you can have better seat availability. Last-minute bargain hunters may see more open seats than in years past if travel sentiment still remains low.
Last-Minute Travel Deals Are Uncertain
The travel theme of 2020 is being flexible and waiting until a few days before your departure date. Last-minute bookings mean you’re less likely getting stuck with a flight credit you need to redeem at a later date.
We may see a flurry of bookings within 14 days of departure. Travelers may wait until they know the travel restrictions, what mandatory quarantine rules will be in place, and the local health situation. If people feel comfortable traveling during the winter holidays, we can see flight prices increase during the final days leading up to peak holiday travel.
Hotel rates are more likely to stay flat or go lower, meaning you might find a last-minute hotel deal. Of course, you may not get to stay at your preferred location or book a certain room type if you make a same-day booking.
Set Fare Alerts
Airlines have yet to release their peak holiday travel volume forecasts. As the daily number of daily TSA screenings are sharply lower than usual, the airports will most likely be emptier than previous holiday seasons. As a result, we may see airlines offer last-minute deals even one week before departure.
Most travel search engines, including Google and Kayak, will send you email alerts when ticket prices change.
The good news is that flight prices are lower than usual for most routes. If you have a flexible travel budget, you may decide to book now to secure your flight and seat.
Avoid Peak Travel Dates
If possible, avoid peak travel dates to get lower prices. For instance, a one-way flight from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. (DCA) may cost $159 on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving Day, but only $91 on Tuesday.
If your schedule is flexible and you can work remotely, leaving home early or extending your stay into the week can help you save a few bucks in airfare.
So far, we know that Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines are blocking the middle seat through November 30, 2020. Other airlines may follow suit through Thanksgiving and eventually Christmas to encourage travelers.
Although fewer people are flying, blocking the middle seat also means fewer seats per plane. While you can social distance, you might still be on a full flight when traveling on a busy day.
Be Familiar With Change And Cancellation Fees
Airlines and hotels are becoming more flexible with their change and cancellation policies to give travelers more peace of mind. You’re also less likely to pay fees if you need to make last-minute adjustments to your schedule.
Airline Fee Waivers
You will see the most noticeable fee waivers when booking a flight. Namely, airlines are no longer charging change fees for standard economy and premium cabin seats. This can be a potential savings of $100 per flight you pay.
Due to changes in the pandemic’s early days, airlines are waiving change fees on basic economy fares that you book through December 31, 2020. Starting in 2021, you will need to book a standard cabin fare to avoid change fees. You will still pay the fare difference if your rebooked flight costs more than your original ticket. You may also have to rebook your flight within one year of your original ticket purchase date.
Hotel Fee Waivers
Hotels are stricter than airlines with waiving cancellation fees. As the holiday travel season approaches, hotels are no longer refunding non-refundable reservations. Although you may need to pay several dollars more per night for a refundable fare, the extra flexibility can be nice if you need to cancel your travel plans.
You may still be able to book a hotel package that can waive certain on-site amenity fees and parking fees. The World of Hyatt “Work from Hyatt” package can also help you save money as you can book a room and get a private workspace to encourage social distancing. You will need to call ahead to book your rate.
As fewer people stay at hotels, you may decide to wait until shortly before your travel dates to book a stay. Hotel vacancy rates are higher than usual this year, which bodes well for last-minute planners. However, you may choose to book early if you want to book a suite or redeem a free night certificate as these special rates can be limited.
Hotels are also relaxing the cancellation deadline for refundable reservations. Instead of having to cancel at least 48 or 72 hours before flying, you can have up to 24 hours before check-in. A few extra days can make a huge difference this holiday season.
Vacation Rental Fee Waivers
You may crave the extra privacy of a vacation rental. Depending on the destination, there might still be a large inventory of vacation rentals available. But you will need to find a unit that has the correct number of bedrooms and amenities for your family.
Also, vacation rentals tend to be more stringent than hotels. The cancellation policy varies by host, but you can view Airbnb, VRBO and other rental platform’s policies up front. You may need to cancel at least 30 days before your planned arrival date to get a full refund.
As vacation rentals are popular, you should book your lodging as soon as possible to secure your home. However, you should make sure you’re comfortable with the cancellation terms first.
Now can be the best time to book your holiday flights and hotel rooms if you’re comfortable traveling. There might be more open seats and hotel rooms if you decide to wait until the last minute to travel. Like other travel seasons, prices can be higher shortly before departure than booking at least one month before.
Do Flights Get Cheaper Closer To Christmas?
Flights for the Christmas travel season are usually at their lowest prices during October and November. Prices start to increase after Thanksgiving weekend and the start of December. The most expensive tickets are usually when you wait to book within 14 days of Christmas unless you’re willing to fly a red-eye flight with an undesirable flight schedule or layover window.
When Is The Best Time To Book Christmas Flights?
The best month to book Christmas flights can be from late September through late October. Prices may be higher if you wait until November to book but still at relatively low levels. However, waiting until November to book means you may have fewer desirable flights and seats to choose from.
Will Holiday Flight Prices Go Down?
Airlines are less likely to discount prices further as flight prices for the Thanksgiving and Christmas travel seasons are already below average. If you see a flight price and itinerary you like, you can book now and not worry about overpaying. The latest you should book a flight is at least 14 days of departure as ticket prices tend to increase for close-in bookings.