'Tis the season for holiday planning. For the first time in years, Americans are weighing their festive travel plans. According to Hopper’s recent Holiday Confidence Report, 39% of Americans say they still plan to travel for the holidays this year, but flexibility will be key.
There are two main elements that travelers need to keep in mind this year. The first, as in years' past, is how to hit the booking sweet spot to score the best deals. The second, and new to this year, is how to stay safe while in transit.
So, for Americans planning to travel this season, we're releasing Hopper's annual Holiday Guidance Report, breaking down our top tips for the 2020 holiday season, as well as our recommendations for when to buy, fly, drive, and stay in a travel year like no other.
1. Start tracking prices now
Domestic airfare prices for Thanksgiving and Christmas are historically low compared to previous holiday seasons. With prices this low, Hopper recommends tracking holiday prices now and buying as soon as you see a good deal. This year, prices will likely stay low and you’ll be able to find great deals throughout the holiday season.
2. Book Thanksgiving and Winter Holiday flights before Halloween
Great deals are available now for round-trip airfare for both Thanksgiving and Christmastime. If you’re ready to book holiday plans, now is the time to buy. If you’re unsure about holiday plans and need more time to book, we advise purchasing flights by the end of October (at the latest) for the best deals. If you can't book just yet, we expect there to still be price drops, even as we get closer to the holidays.
3. Take advantage of flexible options
If you haven't finalized your holiday plans due to COVID-19, consider purchasing a refundable or changeable fare for added flexibility this year. With flexible fares, like Hopper’s Flexible Dates and Refundable Booking Plans, you can now cancel or change your plans for the holidays if needed. Many airlines are also continuing to waive cancellation and change fees through the holidays, so be sure to check whether your carrier is offering flexible options before booking.
4. Make it an extended holiday
With schools remote and many people working from home, families will have more flexibility in travel dates this holiday season than ever before. Additional flexibility has led travelers to consider an extended stay during the holidays this year. In fact, according to Hopper’s latest holiday survey, 50% of travelers say they are considering an extended stay at their destination this year. Flexible travelers are likely to get the best deals, as prices will be close to 40% lower than peak prices within 2 weeks of Christmas Day.
5. Prepare in advance
For many Americans, this holiday season will mark the first time taking a trip away from home in months. According to Hopper’s Holiday Confidence Report, 55% of respondents said the holidays will be their first time traveling since the start of the pandemic.
If you decide to travel for the holidays, keep in mind that it will look different this year. Smart planning can help - remember to be prepared and reference our top safety tips for traveling during COVID-19. Research your destination and understand quarantine rules in advance of booking, stock up early on face masks and hand sanitizer, and develop a travel safety plan with your family ahead of holiday travel.
Hotels often have a difficult time filling rooms over Thanksgiving and Christmas, as many travelers headed home for the holidays plan to stay with family or friends throughout celebrations. This is great news for travelers (or staycationers), who can often score a rate between 8% -10% lower than everyday prices over the holidays!
Domestic round trip airfare over Thanksgiving and Christmas has consistently declined between 5% and up to 15% over the last 4 years. This year, annual price drops will be compounded by lower demand for leisure travel brought on by the pandemic. Airfare at Thanksgiving and Christmas is on track to drop up to 40% compared to last year for domestic travelers, and between 10% and 30% for international travel.
Domestic airfare for Thanksgiving will fall 41% this year to an average of $173 round-trip.
When to Fly. Prices are incredibly stable throughout the week of Thanksgiving, and great deals are available starting the weekend ahead of the holiday. As usual, prices will drop slightly on Thanksgiving Day and on Monday, November 23th for those last minute travelers who want to take advantage of 8% savings off peak prices.
When to Buy. Thanksgiving prices are historically low this year. Domestic airfare will remain low through the holiday. Book your tickets now for the best deals, or by Halloween (October 31st) at the latest to lock in the lowest prices.
Domestic airfare for Christmas will fall 40% this year to average $222 round-trip.
When to Fly. With Christmas on a Friday this year, prices for round trip domestic travel at the holidays will peak the weekend ahead of Christmas day. Flexible travelers should plan to depart early in the week of Christmas (Monday/Tuesday) and save almost 30% off peak prices. Last minute travelers, fear not! Prices will remain low throughout the week of Christmas, with lower-cost departures on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Stay a little longer! Flexible travelers are likely to get the best deals around Christmastime, as prices will be close to 40% lower than peak prices within 2 weeks of Christmas Day.
When to Buy. Buy Christmas flights before Halloween when prices are lowest. Unlike in years' past, if travelers aren’t ready to book so far in advance, prices are expected to continue to stay low in the weeks leading up to the holiday this year.
According to Hopper’s Holiday Confidence Report, 39% of Americans say they plan to travel for the holiday season this year. For those looking to getaway, below are the top trending destinations and best deals for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year.
Table 1: Domestic destinations with higher demand and lower prices than Thanksgiving 2019.
Table 2: International destinations with higher demand, and lower prices than Thanksgiving 2019.
Table 3: Domestic destinations with higher demand and lower prices than Christmas 2019.
Table 4: International destinations with higher demand and lower prices than Christmas 2019.
Book early, especially during peak season. Many rental car companies will reward travelers with lower prices for their advance planning, as it helps car companies estimate demand.
This year, consider a refundable rate. While you may be paying more, it could end up saving you quite a bit of cash at the end of the day. The realities of covid mean that many of us do not know exactly what to expect months in advance. Lock in a lower rate by booking early, but make sure you get a flexible rate in case your plans change.
If you’re booking domestically, consider using a credit card that will cover primary insurance. Many cards (such as the United Explorer Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve, and others) offer this as a perk, but make sure you contact your credit card issuer to confirm the fine print. Ask the following questions, too: Is rental car coverage primary or secondary? How do I make sure coverage applies to my rental? What coverage is included? What isn’t covered?
Enroll in a rewards program. Many rental car companies offer member-only discounts and will offer points to use toward your next booking.
Cross reference your existing memberships. AAA and Costco, for example, have partnerships with major rental car companies that offer special savings for members only. These savings can come in the form of lower base rates and/or discounts for additional drivers.