Let’s take a walk through the 2016 calendar and I’ll show you when to pounce on travel deals—and when you should sit back and let everyone else pay those painfully high prices.
When everyone goes home after New Years, travel demand plummets and we fall into the so-called “dead weeks” — the slowest (and cheapest) time of year for bargain hunters.
Now through the end of March is a great time to find excellent last-minute deals. (Or if you were smart enough to book trips back in the fall when airlines posted big winter fare sales- like this one to Hawaii or this one to Asia)
Exceptions to this would be long weekends like Martin Luther King (Jan 15-18) Valentines/Presidents Day (Feb 14-16)— both weekends are crowded and expensive at ski resorts as well as beaches.
If you are between jobs, retired, or with no kids in school and have the flexibility to travel during these weeks, you’ll see jaw dropping low prices….and also lots of good last minute deals on sites like Hotwire.com or or apps like Hotel Tonight.
One great example of this: Later this week I’m staying at the brand new EVEN Hotel on West 35th Street in Manhattan for just $115 per night– at any other time of year, a decent room in NYC goes for closer to $300 per night– or more.
This is spring break and you need to be on alert for high prices and surprise crowds at airports, especially if you live in or near a college town OR if you are headed to a warm weather destination like Florida, Mexico or the Caribbean. Find out when the university nearest you has spring break and stay home that weekend! (Here’s a helpful guide to spring break dates around the country.)
Late March is usually the busiest time of year for collegiate Spring break, and April is more popular with families traveling around Easter.
But this year, we have a very early Easter weekend (March 25-28) which means college kids AND family spring breakers are going to be crowding the skies and the beaches simultaneously, so expect BIG crowds and BIG prices at this time of year.
There’s a silver lining to an early Easter, though, which is a much longer “shoulder season” when demand dips along with prices. Shoulder season this year will run almost 10 weeks from early April until mid-June when peak summer pricing and crowds kick in.
Shoulder season is not as cheap as the dead weeks, but it’s not anywhere near the painful peak of what you’ll pay during July or August. Springtime is probably the very best time of year to travel to Europe because the weather is getting warmer and summer crowds have not arrived. East Coast to Europe airfares can probably be had for $1,000 (or less) round trip in May compared to closer to $2000 for peak summer roundtrips. Hotels are cheaper, too. Flowers are blooming and locals are in a much better mood!
The peak of the peak summer season does not start until mid-June, so you’ll find significantly lower prices in early June compared to later in the month. Prices soar after that, especially on and around July the 4th and stay high until Labor Day or early September. Fridays and Saturdays in August are typically the busiest days of the year at major hub airports.
The best news for Europe-bound travelers this year is that the US dollar should remain strong, which means once you get there, you’ll find plenty of deals. I expect transatlantic airfares to remain steep, but due to lower fuels costs and increasing airline capacity they won’t increase significantly from last summer. Plus, there are a lot of new low-fare entrants on transatlantic routes that will keep prices low.
Note that with kids going back to school so much earlier these days, you’ll start to see deals pop up in mid to late August. They’ll soar again for Labor Day (Sept 2-5), and then tumble after that.
What’s best about shoulder season is that there are TWO of them! The second one starts in September and lasts all the way to Thanksgiving.
Fall is a slow (and very cheap) time for cruising because kids are back in school and people are fearful of hurricanes. But the reality is that modern cruise ships are fast enough to navigate around storms, so it’s not much of a problem.
Leisure travelers should keep in mind that fall is convention season in many major US cities, so mid-week rates at big city hotels can soar to freakish levels, and then crash on weekends when conventioneers leave town. (This is especially true in San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Seattle.)
As we all know, travel prices start to rise again during the week before Thanksgiving, but travel patterns have been changing lately. Traditionally, the one of the busiest days of Thanksgiving holiday is the Wednesday before. This past year, the FRIDAY before Thanksgiving was busier at most major airports—this means that more people are taking the whole week off.
Another silver lining for bargain hunters? An early Thanksgiving (Nov 24 this year) means that the dead weeks will begin earlier, leading to a longer dead week period when you’ll find great deals nearly everywhere — except in Manhattan when prices soar due to holiday shopping.
So…. when and where will you be traveling in 2016? Please share your comments below
NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: United packages Economy Plus with amenities + Ride-sharing firm goes out of business + Bucket list for air travelers + Useless travel gadgets + ‘Uber of the Skies’ dies
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