The bad news is that the airlines have most of the control for Thanksgiving and Christmas airfares. They know you need to fly home to see family and that you are willing to pay a premium to do just that, especially on the peak travel days. Even if you follow all the booking secrets (practice the best day to book flights, use online tools to stay on top of fares and check out resources for booking travel), saving during the high season is difficult for anyone.
The good news is that when if comes to hotels, you have the power back. There is more inventory available and hotels are competing to draw in guests. Even though it’s a bit easier, don’t just expect to find a deal. Christmas, Thanksgiving and especially New Year’s Eve are some of the busiest times for hotel. However, there are a few things you can do to make sure you find value in the high-mark-up holiday season. It all starts with knowing when to book hotels for Thanksgiving and Christmas travel.
Hotel Prices Are Up
The latest data from the biannual Hotels.com Hotel Price Index shows that average prices in North America were 3 percent higher in the first six months of 2013, compared to the same period last year. It’s not just the U.S. and Canada, hotel rates are increasing. Globally, there has been a 2 percent increase in prices. New cities are trending too. Honolulu has become the most expensive US city ($230 a night on average) surpassing New York City for the first time ever for the Hotel Price Index.
With hotel rates up across the board, you will find extra expenses over the holidays. This year, according to Orbitz, hotel rates are up 5 percent for Thanksgiving, 9 percent for Christmas and 18 percent for New Year’s Eve respectively, so the best time to book is actually now.
Booking.com noticed that, “the booking window is particularly short because so many U.S. domestic travelers book only one or two days before they stay.”
But You Can Still Find a Deal
Booking.com, which handles more than half a million room nights are reserved from more than 41,000 destinations around the world analyzed holiday data and saw that you can save the most money by making on simple change to your holiday travel plans.
More availability can be found if you don’t stay over New Year’s Eve. Instead, there are still lots of really great deals to be found over Christmas, both in the U.S. and in top international destinations.
Don’t limit yourself to a traditional hotel. Booking confirmed that non-hotel accommodations (holiday apartments, B&Bs, etc) are often overlooked and offer great deals during holiday periods.
Alternative accommodations option will soon be even more viable. Expedia has partnered up with HomeAway.com and, starting next year, will show 10,000 vacation rental properties next totraditional hotels and B&Bs on its site.
The Best Time to Book Varies from City to City
Kayak noticed that the booking window varies from city to city. In New York, hotel prices tend not to fluctuate, but the cheapest rates were found a week before check-in, with savings of 6 percent below average room rates. In Orlando, book no earlier than than 3 months before check-in to save up to 13 percent. While you want to wait for Orlando and New York, in Chicago if you book between four to five months out, you could save up to 29 percent.
Hot Hotel Destinations for 2013
According to Booking.com, the top destinations for the 2013-2o14 holiday season (both Thanksgiving and Christmas) are Las Vegas, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Orlando. In addition, New England properties in Vermont and Maine are very popular for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Orbitz found the most popular destinations for Thanksgiving had hotel rates ranging from $353 to $99.
Rates are up for Christmas too. Expect to pay over $200 a night for one of the most popular spots.
If you’re flexible with your holiday travel, there is big savings for in-demand destinations like Napa or Orlando. Look what the experts on Hotwire found for under $100 a night.
- Thanksgiving: 4-star hotel room in the Greater Downtown Denver area of Denver for $68/night on Hotwire for bookings on 10/4 for travel 11/27-11/29/13.
- Christmas: 4-star hotel room in Cherry Creek area of Denver for $55/night on Hotwire for bookings on 10/4 for travel 12/23-12/26/13.
- Thanksgiving: 4-star hotel room in the Santa Rosa-Rohnert Park-Petaluma area of Napa for $98/night on Hotwire for bookings on 10/4 for travel 11/27-11/29/13.
- Christmas: 4-star hotel room in Santa Rosa-Rohnert Park-Petaluma area of Napa for $82/night on Hotwire for bookings on 10/4 for travel 12/23-12/26/13.
- Thanksgiving: 4-star hotel room in the Downtown Orlando area of Orlando for $58/night on Hotwire for bookings on 10/4 for travel 11/27-11/29/13.
- Christmas: 4-star hotel room in the Downtown Orlando area of Orlando for $58/night on Hotwire for bookings on 10/4 for travel 12/23-12/26/13.
- Thanksgiving: 4-star hotel room in the Downtown Portland area of Portland for $93/night on Hotwire for bookings on 10/4 for travel 11/27-11/29/13.
- Christmas: 4-star hotel room in the Downtown Portland area of Portland for $100/night on Hotwire for bookings on 10/4 for travel 12/23-12/26/13.
Vancouver, British Colombia
- Thanksgiving: 4-star hotel room in the Vancouver Downtown Shopping and Entertainment District area of Vancouver for $94/night on Hotwire for bookings on 10/4 for travel 11/27-11/29/13.
- Christmas: 4-star hotel room in the Vancouver Downtown-Coal Harbour-Stanley Park area of Vancouver for $93/night on Hotwire for bookings on 10/4 for travel 12/23-12/26/13.
For more secrets to holiday travel, check out:
- The Best Time to Book Thanksgiving and Christmas Flights
- The best day to book flights
- 5 Steps to Travel Home for Less Over the Holidays
- How to Road Trip on a Budget
By Lily J. Kosner for PeterGreenberg.com