This time last year, I was predicting that we’d see one of the busiest summer travel seasons…ever. And that pretty much came true. Last summer was a blockbuster.
This year, I’m back with a similar prediction of a super busy summer ahead, but with a few wrinkles you should know about.
First off, let’s take a look at demand. According to Best Western, advance bookings for peak summer season at its 2,000+ hotels in the U.S. are up 7 percent compared to this time last year, and up 15 percent compared to 2014. In Canada, advance bookings for peak summer season are up an astonishing 24 percent, mostly due to increased interest by Americans drawn by the strength of the U.S. dollar there.
Airlines in the U.S. are expecting a banner season, too, with 4 percent more passengers than last summer according Airlines for America, the industry trade group. It also says that the nation’s airports will accommodate 95,000 more passengers per day than last summer. More competition and lower fuel costs are resulting in airfares that are flat to down slightly compared to last summer.
Peak season hotel bookings in the U.S. are up due to a more inward focus on the part of American travelers resulting from fears of terrorism and the spread of the Zika virus. In addition, low gasoline prices combined with intense media attention around airport security lines are making road trips an even more attractive option.
GO MIDWEEK: Fridays and Sundays in July and August now outrank Thanksgiving as the busiest air travel days of the year. If possible, try to fly on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday to avoid those lengthy lines at airport security checkpoints. Bonus: Fares for midweek trips are usually slightly less than those on more popular weekends.
AVOID THE PEAK: If you are traveling between June 20 and August 20, prepare for sticker shock. During the peak-of- the-peak summer season, so-called “great travel deals” simply do not exist. If you have the flexibility to travel in early June or late August or September, you’ll pay far less. If you must travel during the peak-of-the- peak season, make reservations now if you have not done so already—that way you’ll get the most convenient flights, best hotel rooms and rental cars you want, and won’t be stuck with what’s left over.
GET REWARDED: In addition to the warm fuzzies from spending time with friends and family on vacation this year, it’s always nice to earn something more. For example, stay two separate times at any Best Western between May 23 and August 28, and you’ll earn a $50 Best Western gift card. Plus, Best Western Rewards members save 10 percent when booking direct on bestwestern.com and earn 1,000 rewards points for stays completed during the promotion period.
GO LAST MINUTE: Due to decreasing demand for transatlantic travel from the other side of the pond, I predict that we will see a lot of “last minute” airfare sales during summer months as airlines try to dump excess inventory. If you have the stomach to wait until the last minute and “let the deal determine the destination” you might save a lot of money this year. This applies when paying cash for airline tickets, as well as redeeming points or miles for trips.
HIT THE ROAD: Low gasoline prices mean we’ll take significantly more road trips this year. Which of course means more traffic. If you are headed to popular beaches, national parks or other popular recreational destinations, get an early start to avoid back ups. Consider using apps like Waze or Google Maps to avoid traffic (and speed traps). Road trippers might also consider driving during the cooler, less crowded nighttime hours.
BUSINESS TRAVEL: If you are headed to work when everyone else is headed on vacation, treat yourself to an upgrade this summer. You can avoid the flip-flop and beach ball crowd by paying a fee (around $50) for a one-time pass to an airport club, or slightly higher rate for a hotel on a quieter concierge floor. Also, airlines frequently discount first and business class seats during summer months, so they end up not much more expensive than inflated economy class tickets—so don’t forget to compare when searching fares.
MAKE RESERVATIONS: U.S. National Parks celebrate 100 years this summer, and the added publicity around the celebration is expected to have parks, and the areas surrounding them, bulging at the seams. This means that visitors need to make hotel or campsite reservations now, or risk being left out in the cold. If you find national parks too crowded or too expensive, consider the large number of relatively unknown state parks. (For example, Google “Texas -or wherever- State Parks”) Or consider summer trips to ski resorts in the mountains where there is plenty of excess hotel and condo inventory, and plenty to do.
This post originally appeared on Best Western’s YouMustBeTrippin.com blog
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