Ready to take a few days off for a fall getaway? Now’s the time to go because travel prices are hitting annual lows. If you are flexible about what day you leave, like big cities, would consider beach vacation and aren’t afraid of hurricanes, you can find a deal this season.
To find a great travel deal during peak business travel season this autumn, my advice would be to go where business travelers are not going.
Here are five places you are least likely to find business travelers and most likely to find low prices in coming months:
Weekends in major cities
Since autumn is peak season for meetings and conferences, hotels near large convention facilities tend to fill up (and raise rates) on weekdays. This means bargain hunters will most likely find good hotel rates on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at major city hotels. For example, I’m attending a Boarding Area conference over a November weekend in Washington, DC. The meeting is at the new Marriott Marquis adjacent to the district’s new convention center. I’m staying over a Friday and Saturday night and our group rate is just $139 per night. If I were to stay midweek, the rate would be around $450!
Midweek or Saturday flights
Business travelers are predictable — they like to fly to work on Sunday evening or Monday morning, and then fly home on Thursday or Friday. That means bargain hunters are likely to find the cheapest seats on days with lower demand: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. They are also more likely to find cheap fares on midday or late night flights, which business travelers tend to avoid. Fares overall are trending down this year due to cheap fuel and low-cost competition. For example, I fly frequently between Atlanta and San Francisco, and have grown accustomed to paying $400-$500 roundtrip. But now that Frontier is in that nonstop market with $238 round trip fares, Delta and United have matched that occasionally, but generally keep their lowest fares at around $310 round trip- still a very good deal.
Mountains or beaches
With business travelers focused on work instead of vacation, demand in typical holiday destinations wanes during autumn, a period known in the travel industry as “shoulder season”. With a decrease in demand, rates tank, and suppliers are more likely to toss in extras (upgrades, welcome cocktails, breakfast) to stimulate business. Best of all, the weather is usually dry and sunny during autumn- it’s also very colorful! But beware: this is also the time of year many resorts perform scheduled maintenance, which can be noisy or disconcerting, so be sure to ask about this when making your booking. For the best deals during shoulder season or other periods of waning demand, check on opaque or last-minute booking sites such as Hotwire.com where suppliers go to dump excess inventory at low rates. Another good tactic for finding specials is to scour travel supplier Twitter or Facebook feeds.
Business class during late winter holidays
Transatlantic business class fares typically run in the $5,000 to $7,000 range during peak business travel season — far beyond what most bargain hunters are willing to pay. However, business travelers tend to stay close to home and hearth during U.S. Thanksgiving and the Christmas/New Year holiday period. When demand slides, airlines put those big seats at the front of the plane on sale. For example, Lufthansa frequently rolls out a business class sale on flights between the US and Europe in late November/early December– so keep your eyes peeled (as we will). And it’s not just low fares- this is also a great time of year to look for last-minute frequent flyer mile discounts on business class seats. As the holidays draw nearer, I expect other airlines to offer similar business class deals like they did last year.
Autumn is the very best time of year to find deals on cruises for two reasons. First, kids are back in school, which means less demand from the family travel segment. Second, fearful that bad weather might ruin their well laid plans, consumers tend to avoid booking cruises when big storms hit the headlines like Hurricane Matthew did in the US this month. As a result of the decline in demand, fares tumble to rock bottom in September, October and November. For example, Royal Caribbean is offering a four-night November cruise from Port Canaveral to the Bahamas in an ocean view cabin for just $176- that’s only $44 per night! With room and board included, that might be cheaper than living at home! Best of all, fears of hurricanes ruining cruises are mostly unfound since new ships are fast enough to steer clear of any danger and the worst that can happen is that your itinerary changes.
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