Booking travel has become more complicated over the past two years. Pandemic closures, labor shortages, higher gas prices, and surges in demand for travel have significantly affected the prices of flights, hotels, cars, cruises, and campsites. What may have been considered the best times to book travel in previous years may not hold true anymore. Below, several experts share how to get the best pricing and selection for your next trip.
IDEAL TIME TO BOOK FLIGHTS
A 2022 Annual Airfare Study by CheapAir.com concludes that 76 days before departure is the prime booking window. The study also finds there is no better day of the week to book airfares, but you will save $57 per ticket by flying on Wednesday vs. Sunday.
Scott Keyes, founder of the website, Scott’s Cheap Flights, advises, “We don’t think the Tuesday hypothesis holds. Every day is a great day to find a cheap flight. The best time to book a domestic flight is 1-3 months out, and for an international flight, it's 2-8 months out. However, we’re recommending booking earlier if you need to travel on specific dates or during busier holidays.”
Airline prices can fluctuate every second and deals pop up daily for different destinations, so it’s best to sign up for travel alerts through a few websites, such as Google Flights, Kayak, or Skyscanner. Also, use a private browsing mode to prevent sites from following cookies on your personal search history and raising your prices.
THE IDEAL TIME TO BOOK HOTELS
If you are wondering about how far in advance to book a hotel, Mike Pearce, PR Manager at HomeToGo says, "According to our data, the average summer traveler on our website began planning their stay 96 days before their planned arrival date—a 34-day increase compared to the summer of 2019.”
Evidence shows that hotel rates have also increased this year and price sensitivity has somewhat decreased. According to Stephanie Rohletter, Director of Revenue Management at The InterContinental Magnificent Mile Chicago, the best time to book hotels varies, based on factors such as destination, seasonality, and market fluctuations. Generally, you can secure a better rate and room if you book well in advance, but sometimes, last minute deals pop up based on availability. Also, it is better to book a hotel directly through the hotel’s website rather than through a third party. Doing so enables you to take advantage of good rates, added amenities, loyalty program points, and flexible cancellations.
THE IDEAL TIME TO BOOK RENTAL CARS
Booking in advance can also help you save on rental cars. A shortage of cars coupled with higher demand has resulted in consumers paying more. “The golden period for best price and selection on a rental car is 4-6 months in advance. Our advice is to lock in a reservation as soon as you know your travel plans, and you can always amend later on,” says Phil Partridge at Rhinocarhire.com.
THE IDEAL TIME TO BOOK CRUISES
Managing Editor of Cruise Critic, Chris Gray Faust, says, “We are seeing travelers booking an average of 110 days out from their sailing—a number that continues to decline as confidence in travel continues to rise and more cruise lines are offering limited-time promotions to try and recoup two years of lost business. Otherwise, the wave season, which typically runs from mid-January to mid-March (aka the cruise industry’s Black Friday) is the ideal time to take advantage of early booking incentives and the best discounts of the year.”
Cruising during shoulder and low seasons will also help you save money and avoid crowds.
THE IDEAL TIME TO BOOK CAMPSITES
If you are looking to camp at popular sites, book an entire season in advance. National Parks and National Forest Service campgrounds allow you to book campsites six months in advance.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Book as soon as you decide to travel. Most carriers allow flights to be booked 330 days in advance and hotel rooms are released 18 months in advance, so plan ahead and travel with peace of mind. Consulting with a Travel Advisor or Travel Agent can help you navigate the research, deals, and timeframes to make booking travel easier.