Dara Continenza - Tue Jul 21 2015
We know, we know. It feels like summer has barely begun and already, we're talking about Labor Day travel at Hopper. But, like any holiday weekend, advanced planning is key to saving the most money.
Don't wait until the sun sets on your summer to nab a great deal. Here are some easy ways to save on your Labor Day vacation.
The good news is, airfare over Labor Day weekend is already a little bit cheaper than last year. Average coach-class ticket prices are $310 round-trip, which is a 14% decrease from 2014.
Additionally, Labor Day is a week later this year. This is likely pushing airfares down even further, as the holiday falls further outside summer high season. (Ticket prices tend to decrease in September in general, and this year, fall flights are a little less expensive than last.) So whether you nab a fare sale or not, your base ticket price is likely to be a bit cheaper.
Hotel prices tend to spike over Labor Day, as hordes of travelers head out of town for one last summer vacation. In fact, last year, hotel demand increased about 30%, and increased demand almost always equals increased prices. This year, expect the hotel situation to be the same.
So where to stay? Start looking on the earlier side for hotel rooms; check out vacation rentals on sites such as Airbnb and HomeAway; and look into last-minute deals at inns or bed and breakfasts. If you're a member of a hotel loyalty program, like Starwood Preferred Guests or Marriott Rewards, now is the time to check for special discounts!
If you're planning on camping, you'll find that campsites and cabins are booking up fast as well. Begin your search now, as you likely won't uncover last-minute deals.
If you can swing it, consider taking your vacation a little earlier or later. Flights for both the weekend before and the weekend after Labor Day are about 10% cheaper. While the discount for one flight may be small, savings for families can quickly add up.
And if you're planning on booking with award miles, know that Labor Day may fall in your preferred airline's blackout window. (It's a popular time to travel, so airlines may withhold award flights for higher-paying flyers). So don't count on being able to book award flights, especially at the last minute, during any holiday weekend.
A good rule of thumb to finding Labor Day flight deals is to stick within your geographic region: Not only will shorter flights be less expensive, but you're less likely to run into delays and missed connections. For weekend getaways such as this, stick to quick non-stops.
Flights between Boston, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. all fall below $200 this year, which make culture-focused city breaks a great deal for East Coasters. If you're in the South, flights to Florida are very reasonable (for instance, just $86 from Atlanta to Orlando, which leaves you plenty of pocket money for park tickets). And if you're on the West Coast, consider checking out Las Vegas: We found flights around just $100 to Sin City from a number of California airports.
Prices are expected to rise as Labor Day draws nearer. Airfares especially start to rise sharply about six weeks before your departure date, with few decreases for most destinations, so if you haven't already, start making your travel plans as soon as possible.