When is the best time to book December travel? It’s a simple question, but the answer depends on a few things, namely your plans, your flexibility, and the type of travel you’re taking. Because December is a busy travel month, finding the best rates requires a strategy. With that in mind, we’ve crunched historical travel data for December so as to provide you with better insight on how best to book travel in the coming months.
The first thing to consider is the difference between airfare savings and hotel savings. Airlines have become increasingly adept over the years at ensuring that every possible seat on the plane is filled before takeoff. Hotels, on the other hand, have far more flexibility in their booking availability, leaving ample opportunity for last minute deals.
Some travelers are still under the impression that the earlier you book a flight, the better rates you’ll get. We found that 20% of travelers in 2016 booked their December flights at least 70 days before their departure date. On average, these passengers paid 70% more than those who purchased their tickets during the optimal booking window. It’s worth noting that longer-haul flights tend to get booked earlier and that this plays a part in higher prices, since the best deals are rarely found when booking more than 70 days in advance.
We also know that booking flights last-minute can be costly. Despite this, nearly 10% of travelers waited until just 10 days before booking their flight, and we found that travelers who booked flights within a week of their departure date paid nearly 50% more than those who booked during the optimal booking window. So what is the optimal booking window? Travelers booking flights from 60 to 70 days prior to departure saw the lowest ticket prices.
On the contrary, we found that it pays to wait when it comes to hotels. Last December, the lowest hotel rates came to those travelers who booked from 1 to 25 days before their check-in date. Those looking for rooms over New Year’s Eve, saw rooms become substantially cheaper over the last few days leading up to the holiday – as much as 40% less than the average price 30 days out from check-in. Booking hotels last-minute can pay off, but just remember:
- Exceptionally popular destinations, like Manhattan over New Year’s Eve, may book-up quite early. By comparison, a beach cottage on California’s Central Coast could likely offer a fantastic last-minute deal.
- The number of travelers booking last minute hotel rooms (1 and 2 days out) skyrockets, meaning you some of the better options may sell out quickly. Keep an eye on availability.
- Being flexible on the type of hotel and its location can go a long way. A mid-range hotel may offer a great rate, buy a luxury hotel may offer something even deeper. See what your budget affords you across different classes of hotels.
So What’s Your Best Strategy?
Road-Trip: Pump the breaks on booking early, unless visiting an exceptionally popular destination where hotel options will be limited. Watch rates dip as your desired check-in date approaches, then strike when it feels right.
Just A Flight: Confirm your travel plans now, you’re in the optimal booking window of 60-70 days prior to departure.
Flight + Hotel: Decide how much flexibility you have within your itinerary. Book your flight now. Monitor hotel prices and availability as your trip approaches. If you’re taking an extended trip over the last week of the year, consider booking a room in advance for the first half, then making a second reservation mid trip in order to save the most money.
Whether booking December travel or any time of year travel, check out Bonwi.com for your next getaway. And don’t forget to continue to check out our blog every Tuesday for more Travel Tips. Let Bonwi make sure your next adventure is the best one yet!