Conventional wisdom says that people who travel around Christmas and Thanksgiving, which are holidays many Americans celebrate every winter, should book as soon as possible. The pandemic rearranged the order of how and when people could fly and made it difficult to find the right information.
According to Hayley Berg, an economist with Hopper, a travel app, “Consumers book travel less than 25% before they depart,” she said. “About a week later if you are looking for domestic travel, and about three weeks later if you want to book international .”
This year, last-minute travelers could reap the benefits. Based on five years worth of historical data, Google Flights email data suggested that Christmas travel prices are most affordable between 20 and 88 days prior to departure. This is a lot later than most travelers think.
This year could be different, as it has been in the past. It could be back to “normal.” That’s great news for those who have waited too long to book holiday travel.
Ride the wave
Berg explains that the average airline pricing pattern between now- and the holidays is “At the beginning of the trough”, which ranges from 180 days to 60-60 days. We see gradual increases for both holidays. While prices will remain lower than in August, they will slowly rise .”
The question of when it is better to book early or later is a simplified one. Between the peak summer demand and last-minute, booking is best.
This is to say, now.
Berg states that inventory is at or below 2019 levels. “Inventory is at, or below 2019, .”
Dwindling supplies, hard-to-predict demand
Last-minute holiday bookings could lead to trouble if a demand surge turns into a supply shortage. Airlines are struggling to provide enough staffing and flights to satisfy demand. According to American Airlines’ earnings report, its fourth quarter 2019 capacity will be 5-7% below 2019.
Prices will rise when airlines sell all the seats that are available on peak travel days. If more people book later than usual, it could cause a rush and a price rise on the remaining seats.
However, this scenario assumes that the demand, i.e., peak price-paying travelers, remains constant.
A survey of 4,986 Americans conducted by Deloitte in September 2022 found that only 31% plan to travel between Thanksgiving and mid January — a far cry from the 42% who planned to travel during the same time last year. 40 percent of non-travelers report that their financial situation this year is worse than it was last year.
The appeal of spending hundreds of Dollars on airfare may diminish as macroeconomic conditions worsen. A weakening demand will keep prices low and make it easier for last-minute buyers to purchase seats.
There is another difference between this year’s holiday travel season and the pre-pandemic ones: Hybrid and remote work has changed how office workers plan their travel. So-called “laptop luggers” are able to bring their work to grandma’s house, provided she has good Wi-Fi.
This adds another layer of nuance to the best-time-to-book-holiday-travel story for 2022. Even with a weaker air travel supply, peak travel days, such as Sunday after Thanksgiving, will fill up and become virtually unobtainable for last-minute travellers. Those who are flexible with their dates have better odds of finding lower airfare.
Berg suggests that you be flexible and look for deals. “But, for the average traveler, we’re going .” increase in prices.
She says that prices for hotels dropped 28% last Thanksgiving compared to bookings made five to six weeks prior. This is great news for budget-conscious travelers who want to be flexible, but it can also cause anxiety for people who need certainty. You run the risk of not getting exactly what you need .”
No matter how the holiday season is compared to pre-pandemic or pandemic patterns, there is one thing that is certain: It is a good idea to book early.
This is good news for those who waited too long to book. However, the clock is ticking. The reality is that there may be fewer flights available during peak times due to the new willingness of travelers to book later. Deals will be difficult to find if this is the case.
Flexibility is key to maximizing your savings, as prices may drop on off-peak days. Last-minute bookings of hotels can save you even more
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