With the most expensive travel season quickly approaching, Hopper decided to analyze its real-time flight search data to pinpoint the most common and costly mistakes travelers can make when booking a vacation. Hopper's data sources contain ten to fifteen billion airfare price quotes every day from searches happening all across the web.
Average Cost: $34 per night
We found that, contrary to popular belief, the best rates aren't always available at the last minute. Hotels tend to have very different revenue management strategies and systems, and this assumes that all hotels aren't great at managing their inventory, which isn't the case. And, many travelers feel uncomfortable about waiting until the last day to book.
We found that on average, the best rates can be found 2-3 months in advance of your trip. The typical traveler begins searching for hotels about 1 month before departure.
Here are some graphs that demonstrate that most of the hotel pricing volatility is about 2-3 months in advance. The green band is the range of prices quoted and the blue line is the average price for that hotel. If you're using a price monitoring tool, 2-3 months in advance is when you'll be most likely to score a deal.
Average Cost: $46 on domestic trips and $139 on international trips
It's a very bad idea to rush into paying for your flight without exhausting all your options first. In fact, we found that two out of three ticket prices will drop at some point within 24 hours of the original search or booking with an average savings of 14%. That means holding off on hitting the "buy" button until you've made sure there are no more competitive offers out there — from other airlines, to alternate airports, or to a different destination entirely. Oh, and if you do happen to find yourself regretting that impulse buy moments after booking, then remember: Most major carriers in the United States allow you to cancel your booking within 24 hours of purchase — for free.
Average Cost: $9 on domestic trips and $10 on international trips
The airlines have very sophisticated pricing algorithms, which means its difficult to snag a deal if you're shopping at very predictable times. It can be difficult to plan leisure trips during work hours so most people put it off until the weekend. However, we analyzed which days of the week Hopper detects the most deals and, therefore, sends a "buy now" notification to users. There's significantly less deals available on the weekend for both domestic and international trips. If you're too busy during work, use a price monitoring tool like Hopper, which will alert you when it's time to buy.
Average Cost: $32 on domestic trips and $99 on international trips
When it comes to touching down in some of the world's larger destinations, it's likely that there will be more than one airport on offer. For example, New York boasts Newark, JFK and LaGuardia; London has Gatwick, Stansted and Heathrow, while Washington DC is served by Ronald Reagan National Airport, Dulles International and Baltimore-Washington International, too. So before booking, check all the available arrival points and include the cost of transfers into town in your final calculation. If there's an alternate airport, we've found that it can save you an average of 10%.
Average Cost: $131 on domestic trips and $397 on international trips
Perhaps you're considering a trip to the bubbling baths and industrial beer halls of Budapest, Hungary, but can't seem to find any bargain air connections into town. Well, a wise traveler would expand their range of choices and look at flights to Vienna, Munich, Prague, and Bratislava, too, all of which are just one manageable and affordable overland journey away from Budapest (especially when budget European airlines offer cheap connections!). If you don't want have to manage price checking multiple destinations or even a continent, you can use Hopper's Flex Watch feature. Just enter as many destinations or regions as you'd like and Hopper will monitor prices for you and alert you when there's an amazing deal. On average, Hopper's Flex Watch feature saves travelers over 40%.
In short, it's always worth checking out prices to alternative arrival points nearby — you never know, you may just discover some other place you love!
Average Cost: $65 on domestic trips and $198 on international trips
Our data shows that there are some pretty hefty savings to be had on airfares by simply changing up the days of departure and return to suit the trends for particular routes. In general, flying on Friday will cost you 20% more than flying on the cheapest day, which is Tuesday. In general, Saturday night stays will cost you 4% more. And these are just average savings — your own haul could be much higher.
Average Cost: $25 on domestic trips and $9 on international trips
It's the same old story: shelling out for a "bargain" airfare because you forgot to add up all those additional fees like checked luggage, extra legroom, and priority boarding. With more airlines rolling out basic economy fares, it has become challenging to determine exactly how much you'll pay in fees. Basic economy fares are great for no-frills fliers, but they come with major restrictions and fees. Typically, checked bags average around $25 and additional checked luggage costs $9 on international trips. Hopper's Fair Bear will break down all the fees associated with your fare at checkout.
Average Cost: $139 on domestic trips and $529 on international trips
If Hopper's findings have made one thing clear, it's that the modern commercial airline industry does not reward spontaneity. In fact, with rapid and exponential growth in most airfares in the days leading up to take-off, it's easy to see that — in most cases at at least — the early bird really does catch the worm! So, be prepared and plan your trips with ample time, and you should find your ticket prices are taking a turn for the more affordable.
Business routes, like this graph for Boston to San Diego, tend to have low, slightly declining prices at long advances, with prices and demand then rising very rapidly prior to departure. The optimal time to buy this trip is three months before departure.
More consumer-oriented markets like Boston to Honolulu are booked much farther in advance, and have a much smaller last-minute premium. The optimal time to book this trip is about a month in advance of departure. Both trips have price premiums if you wait until the last minute.
Average Cost: $38 on domestic trips and $474 on international trips
While many travelers think the earlier the better when it comes to bagging bargains in the air, the statistics actually speak to the contrary. Flights go on sale 11 months before departure, but don't expect to catch deals more than 150 days prior to takeoff. Booking more than six months ahead can cost you since airlines set their initial prices conservatively. Booking at the right moment can offer up potential savings to the tune of hundreds of dollars on some routes.
Price volatility means you can often find a cheaper price even when the overall price trend is rising: the first red dot is priced about $345 (above trend) but later dips under $310 (below trend)
Average Cost: $52 on domestic routes and $106 on international routes
To stay on top of seesawing airfares, passengers need certain tools to keep them ahead of the competition. One of these is the Hopper app. Using a complex data analysis method, it crunches billions of pieces of information sourced from flight searches, bringing users up-to-date info on airfare trends, the best booking times, alternative airport options, and plenty more, all complete with real-time notifications. You can set up alerts for a specific route and we'll let you know when prices drop or are expected to rise. That way, you don't have to do the hard work of checking every airline website ever, saving you time and money in the process. We're nice like that.
This study is based on Hopper's historical archive of more than a trillion flight prices, which we use to power the Hopper app which tells you exactly when to fly and buy your tickets for the best deals on airfare. Hopper collects, from several Global Distribution System partners, ten to fifteen billion airfare price quotes every day from searches happening all across the web. All of the costs are calculated off of average fares for summer 2018 trips. US domestic fares are currently averaging $329 and international fares are averaging $993 for summer 2018.